Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, April 1, 2016

Poetic Observations

Mother Nature and the calendar may have designated the vernal equinox as March 20, 2016 in the northern hemisphere but the first day of April heralds an event in the literary world which cements this annual change.  National Poetry Month is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year with a host of activities available for participants on their website.  There is no better time to collect words expressing the shift in seasons than the renewal of life after a winter's rest.

As the days move forward the noticed differences are sometimes subtle, slight and soft and other times loud, large and vibrant.  In her first work of poetry author Julie Fogliano (And Then It's Spring, If you want to see a whalebeginning with spring follows the seasons documenting her observations with dates.  The illustrations of Julie Morstad (This Is Sadie, Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova) delicately portray defining moments.  When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, March 1, 2016) is a collection of thankfulness, gentle, simple and straight from the heart.

march 20
from a snow-covered tree
one bird singing
each tweet poking
a tiny hole
through the edge of winter
and landing carefully
balancing gently
on the tip of spring

A first bird, a first flower, and forgotten remnants of winter fun emerge from the snowy weather.  Clouds release rain and buds on branches release flowers.  Sensations, sights and sounds increase.  There is a focus on flowers, sunshine, bees, breezes and berries.  Then...it's summer.

july 28
if you ever stopped
to taste a blueberry
you would know
that it's not really about the blue, at all

Languid lounging in cool water helps dim the heat.  Life is in constant motion all around you even at night inside your home when a small glowing insect may visit.  Your garden grows; green is replaced with other colors.  There are beach picnics, oceans of water and sand, seagulls and swimming.  There will be stargazing; long nights of stillness and staring upward.  Then...it's fall.

november 20
there is nothing left to bloom
or sprout
or bud
or grow
these showers will not bring you flowers at all
these showers are practice for snow

As much happiness as June, July, August and most of September bring, there is a time when sweater weather is welcome.  In shades of brown, orange, red and yellow leaves fall, form patterns and are raked into piles; piles and piles of crunchy, crinkly fragments of a summer spent.  Patches of dirt are spotted with brilliant globes.  Trees reach silently.  Quiet is coming.  Then...it's winter.

december 29
and i woke
to a morning
that was quiet
and white
the first snow
(just like magic) came
on tiptoe

What would it be like to fall like a snowflake falls?  What would it be like to stand alone, a single cow among many snowflakes?  Outside wind and snow change the landscape frosting the familiar into something entirely new.  Inside a cozy fire and warm blankets shelter inhabitants from a storm that never ends.  But, then it does.

march 20
from a snow-covered tree ...

Reading the poetry penned by Julie Fogliano is like taking the feelings from your best day and swimming through them page after page.  Without punctuation the breaks come in the placement of the lines; a steady stream of thought fueled by sensory inspection.  Through her use of words the simple, everyday things mentioned become royalty worthy of wonder.  Here is another poem

may 10
lilac sniffing
is what to do
with a nose
when it is may
and there are lilacs
to be sniffed

The image on the front of the dust jacket continues to the left on the back.  Children look, carry, pick and reflect among the delicately depicted fruits of the season.  One of the darker hues of green covers the book case with a deep forest green along the spine.  On the front a single green tomato is embossed into the cover.  The warm, early red of a ripening tomato covers both the opening and closing endpapers.  Tiny fruits and vegetables are gathered under the title.  A wee little nut-carry squirrel is featured on the verso.  Between the dedications a child is shown eating a slice of watermelon.

Rendered in gouache and pencil crayon by Julie Morstad most of the illustrations span two pages, edge to edge.  There are fine lines, intricate details, soaring vistas and close perceptions but most of all her pictures are brimming with remembered emotions relative to those specific seasonal experiences.  There are no adults in these visuals, only children, a dog, the flash of a rabbit, a firefly, birds, a bee, a frog, butterflies, an inchworm, squirrels, a cat, a white duck and a cow.  It's a lovely world in which she asks us to wander.

One of my favorite pictures of many is beneath a summer sky without moonlight. There are so many stars to be seen overhead.  Two children, a boy and a girl, are seated on a hillside looking at the stars. They and the hill are shown in silhouette.  Above them are streaks of deep, dark blue.  You can almost hear the crickets breaking the silence with their chirping.

Forty-eight poems some as short as two lines, others as long as two pages walk us through the four seasons, reminding us to appreciate those things most noticed as children.  When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Julie Morstad is pure delight from start to finish. I highly recommend this for your personal and professional bookshelves.  They are absolute magic to read aloud.

To learn more about Julie Morstad please follow the link attached to her name to take you to her website.  At the publisher's website you can view four interior images.  Julie Fogliano pronounces her name for us at TeachingBooks.net  Make sure you visit Jama Rattigan's blog, Jama's Alphabet Soupfor a wonderful review of this title and interview of Julie Fogliano today.  Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries John Schumacher showcases a guest post by Julie Fogliano at Watch. Connect. Read.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson highlights art by Julie Morstad at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

For more resources for National Poetry Month please visit Jama Rattigan's blog Jama's Alphabet Soup.  You won't lack for things to do, read or write.  Teacher librarian Shannon McClintock Miller has created a Symbaloo for Poetry.


  1. I LOVE this book! LOVE , love, love it! And loved reading all of your words about it here

    1. I LOVE it too Carrie! These poems are like meditations on life. Thank you for visiting today and reading my post.

  2. Thanks for the link love, Margie. I love this book so much. Enjoyed your lovely review!

    1. You are welcome, Jama. I can't believe we both selected the same book for April 1st! Thank you for your kind words.