Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Poetry Month Author Focus

Although observations of everything about our world through poetry is welcome any month of the year, the annual celebration of National Poetry Month in April is when poets, those who enjoy poetry and those who have yet to discover poetry can come together.  The use of various poetic styles is showcased.  The interplay of word choices and cadence penned using those various techniques gives the appearance of pure magic.

One poet whose work I've enjoyed for years is Laura Purdie Salas.  This spring readers are fortunate to have three new books written by Laura Purdie Salas released.  They are from three different publishing houses and illustrated by three different artists.  The first, Snowman - Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations (Charlesbridge. February 5, 2019) is illustrated by Micha Archer.

science + poetry = surprises

As winter gray drains away, spring tiptoes in.  It sprinkles color and motion and sound all around.  Each sunny day, soft breeze, and spring shower changes our world.

Science is why and how a
flower grows.  Poetry is 
looking at that flower and
seeing a firework.  Surprise!

Twenty-three poetic equations divided into early, middle and late spring follow this introductory mathematical expression and lyrical explanation.  Poem by poem we become avid spectators.  We see those creatures who awaken from sleep.  We see snowy formations become watery rivets filling dips in the ground like nature's teacups.  Have you ever seen otters playing along a riverbank?  It's a mud bath party!

Missing raptors, bald eagles, return north diving for their meals in water.  Geese fly in formation as they, too, move north again.  Spring winds snag kites causing them to dip up and down like roller coasters of the sky.  When we see the first bees, we know pollination begins and food grows.  Robins have returned.  When will we see their precious, bright, blue eggs nestled in a nest?

Rains mean rainbows; a sure sign of science in action.  These spring rains are consumed by plants eager to burst forth from their hiding places.  Woodland and meadow explorers and dog walkers know to look (and smell) for mother and baby skunks on patrol for food.  At night, the steady serenade of frogs is certain to bring a smile to those waiting for winter to say good-bye.  For the final equation and poetic response, readers are challenged to pay attention, look for changes and be changed.

Addition, subtraction and multiplication are supplied by Laura Purdie Salas as she takes us from winter's end to summer's beginning.  She explores numerous aspects of the spring season blending literature and science.  We are fascinated as each explanation unfolds.  We enter each landscape willingly, looking at the everyday with a distinctive point of view.  Here is another equation.

nest + robin = jewelry box 
Robins lay dazzling blue eggs
in spring.  Some scientists
believe that the most vivid
blue eggs have the healthiest
chicks inside.  The blue shells
might act like sunscreen,
protecting the chicks from sun
damage before they hatch.

On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers can already see the intricate and colorful collage creations of artist Micha Archer.  Children, here and throughout the book, share the stages of spring and diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds.  To the left, on the back, amid a canvas of bright green, is a single rectangular shape featuring a female cardinal among clusters of pink blossoms.  In the lower left corner, a nest of babies with open mouths await her return.

The opening endpapers are a pale blue and the closing endpapers are a lighter vivid green.  For the title page, Micha Archer gives us a view of a pond with a red-winged blackbird perched among cattails.  On the other side of the pond a snowman enjoys his last days.  With each page turn a double page picture extends from left to right but usually depicts two poems, one on the left and the other on the right.  The balance is stunning.  Only once are there two separate single-page pictures.

Using her signature technique explained in detail at the close of the book, Micha Archer gives us panoramic vistas above and below ground, inside a beaver's house, close-up to a bee gathering pollen, and at all times during the day.  She takes us into our world, asking us to share and respect what we see.  Every portion of each image reflects meticulous care.

One of my many, many favorite images spans two pages.  It is late spring, and the sunset has painted the sky in breathtaking beauty.  On the left, on a small hill, a mother skunk leads her babies, all in a row, to search for food.  Along the bottom of that darkened hill is a stunning array of dandelions, in various sizes.  Some are new and others are old.  These dandelions carry across the gutter to spread into an enormous field stretching to the horizon.  Two children romp among the flowers scattering seeds with their movements and breath.

Snowman - Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Micha Archer is highly recommended for your personal and professional collections.  At the end of the book is an author's and illustrator's note.  There is a page dedicated to When Spring Starts and another one for Further Reading.  At the publisher's website is an activity guide you can download.  Using the links embedded in Laura Purdie Salas' and Micha Archer's names, you can access their websites and learn more about their other work.  Micha Archer has interior images from this book on her site.  Laura Purdie Salas has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Micha Archer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Micha Archer and this title are highlighted at author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

On March 12, 2019 In The Middle Of The Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House (Wordsong, an imprint of Highlights) written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Angela Matteson was published.  It follows the antics of all the occupants of a household once a child falls sound asleep.  It makes you wonder and laugh at what might be happening when you are dreaming in your own home.

After Hours

Sun and moon have traded places-
Time for games!  Time for races!

We wait,
we wait,
we wait


for you to sleep so we can play!

Your breathing settles, slow and deep.
Finally! You're fast asleep.

Shhhhhhhh . . .

Anticipation grows and then total abandon rules the house in these twenty-six poems utilizing a variety of techniques.  Stuffed-animals and toys have a talent show.  A marker laments the loss of its top and adventuresome pencils form a paper airplane for transportation.  A baseball cap comes alive looking for a new place to rest.  Gig the dog provides the perfect spot.

An overdue library book scampers through the night, hiding and moving from place to place.  A bottle of perfume provides the spark for an acrostic poem.  Dental floss is on the loose fashioning everything it never gets to be during the day.  A lunch box sneaks up on a pesky enemy capturing it with glee.  Did you know spaghetti does not want to stay in a bowl?  It would much rather become your shoelaces.

Trust me, when I say you'll never look at a fruit roll-up in quite the same way again.  Flip-flops and winter boots chat in a poem for two voices (the first of two).  You might want to make sure you secure your lawn hose better at day's end.  (I never did like seeing it at night on the ground.)  When the sun rises and morning arrives, the child is none the wiser, but we are.

This book is one of those books when you know, despite all the work, this author, Laura Purdie Salas, had fun because that is what these poems are . . .fun.  Words rhyme furnishing readers with a rhythm.  Most of the poems use a first person (object) voice. Here is another poem.

Mixed-Up Mixing Bowl

I tilt and twirl
a blurry swirl
I spin into
a tizzy

I wobble, sway
a bowl ballet-


Now I'm

Rendered mostly in the hours after dark, with acrylics, gouache, and a touch of colored pencil on wood board these illustrations by Angela Matteson first seen on the matching dust jacket and book case are ready to zip you into the world of night-life fun.  Look at those pencils zooming in their paper airplane!  The starry expanse begins anew on the back, to the left, providing a place for words from the first poem.

The opening and closing endpapers are a matte-finished light blue.  The toy box shown on the title page hints at the events to come.  Angela Matteson alternates between double-page pictures and single-page illustrations.  Her color palette reflects the time of day; purples and blues.  All the visuals are brimming with animation and loaded with details that are often humorous.

Careful readers will want to compare the bedroom setting in the first poem with the bedroom setting in the final poem.  The origami figures made by the pencils are moving off the page.  The overdue library book moves through three subsequent illustrations.  A bottle of dish soap is aghast at the basketball relaxing in a sink full of ice cubes.  There is a lot to see with each page turn.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the poem titled Pencil Plunge.  It spans two pages.  On the left pencils wait in a row across the top step on a staircase.  Six pencils are laughing as they race down the steps, point by point.  On the right, one pencil has a clipboard keeping score, another is sharpening up for another run and two others are assisting a pencil with scotch tape.  This one cracked.

If you want to add hilarity and wonder to a read aloud of poetry with a group or before bedtime one-on-one, In The Middle Of The Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Angela Matteson is an excellent selection.  You will want a copy for your personal and professional collections.  To learn more about Laura Purdie Salas and Angela Matteson and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Laura has lots of extras for this book on her website (and her other books, too). Laura Purdie Salas has accounts on Instagram and Twitter as noted above.  Angela Matteson has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  To start off the blog tour for this title Dylan Teut, director for the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival in Seward, Nebraska, at Mile High Reading, interviewed Laura Purdie Salas.  At a publisher's website you can view the title page and the first page of the contents.

To start off the first week of National Poetry Month, Lion Of The Sky: Haiku For All Seasons (Millbrook Press, April 2, 2019) written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Merce Lopez was made available for all readers.  It presents an entire book using a form of haiku and using these as riddles to be solved.  Laura Purdie Salas calls it riddle-ku.  


I am a wind bird.
sky skipper, diamond dipper,
DANCING on your string

Did you figure out the answer to this first of twenty-four poems?  In this series of poems Laura Purdie Salas asks us (as she does many times) to look at something with a fresh perspective.  We move through the four seasons exploring elements found during those special months.

April showers do bring May flowers but what else looks like flowers in the rain?  In a following riddle-ku two objects both begin with the letter "b", but one comes before the other in spring.  This secret is delicately described.  And sometimes you walk around it, other times you jump right in the center with a huge splash.  In the hands of Laura Purdie Salas, we

sail leaf boats across me.

Dandelions, mosquitoes, and sandcastles herald a new season and are aptly portrayed in three clever lines of five, seven and five syllables.  The poem using the title of the book creates a memorable and mesmerizing vision.  It leads us with a gasp and a sigh into autumn.

Will you think of your school as waiting, welcoming and wearing something special?  We read of a train no one will ever ride.  We hear familiar noises when someone makes a satisfying jump as a reward.  Now winter is upon us.  Aspects, those of us living in the north are ready to big adieu, speak to readers. Cold permeates each poem.  How do we fly in winter without ever leaving the ground?  Who waits, as we do, dreaming of spring?

Knowing former students' fondness for haiku and puzzles, I know readers will enjoy these truthful, eloquent riddles using three lines written with great insight by Laura Purdie Salas.  These poems ask us to use all our senses, seeking answers in not-so-obvious places.  The subjects described are familiar but lifted to wondrous.  Here is another poem.

fire in our bellies,
we FLICKER-FLASH in twilight-
rich meadow of stars

As colors burst across the matching dust jacket and book case on the front, we realize we are in for a pictorial treat courtesy of illustrator Merce Lopez.  She captures the amazing feeling of being seated during a festival or holiday using fireworks as they spread above us, diminishing our size by their grandeur.  To the left, on the back, she shifts her style to match the exquisite and graceful nature of the object being described in the riddle-ku shown to readers.  It's a different kind of display; one made by Mother Nature.

On the opening and closing endpapers a canvas is shown in a dark teal.  Each intricate illustration is rendered in acrylic on paper and finished digitally.  They are both realistic and have a dream-like quality at the same time; a beautiful blend of truth and mystery.  Sometimes Merce Lopez has a single-page picture for each poem.  Other times a double-page image becomes a background for two poems.

Merce Lopez's use of color, line, light and shadow invites readers into each illustration.  We are easily transported through the subsequent seasons.  Each visual gives readers additional hints as to the answer for the poem.  Sometimes they are more subtle than others.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the poem previously noted.  Earth tones of blue, gray, black and brown in soft shades supply a pleasing place for the glowing circles of light.  These tiny circles of light glow around two children standing in a field of tall grasses.  They are close and facing each other.  Their heads are bowed and looking at the light gently held in their hands.

This third book, Lion Of The Sky: Haiku For All Seasons written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Merce Lopez, is another charming and captivating look at our world through the eyes of an outstanding poet and her illustrative collaborator.  Even when you've figured out the answers to these riddle-ku poems, you'll find yourself reading them again and again for the lovely use of language and the impressive images.  Laura explains riddle-ku at the close of the book.  Further reading about haiku, riddle poems and seasons is listed along with an answer key.  To learn more about Laura Purdie Salas and Merce Lopez, a resident of Spain, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Be sure to enjoy all the extra features Laura includes for this title.  As stated previously Laura Purdie Salas has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Merce Lopez has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  The artwork of Merce Lopez for this book is showcased by Julie Danielson, author, reviewer and blogger, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

UPDATE:  Enjoy this video by Laura Purdie Salas about the publication of these books.


  1. Oh, Margie, what a glorious and comprehensive examination of my three spring books. I am honored! I especially love how you shared about the gorgeous illustrations (my favorites matched yours, too, in two of the three books). I feel so lucky to have three books illustrated by three spectacular artists and edited by three amazing editors. And shared by one fantastic librarian! Thank you so much for your enthusiasm:>)

  2. Thank you Laura for taking the time to comment here. I am a real fan of your work. You've added such richness to the children's literature world. For this I am grateful. You are very welcome.

  3. I just wanted to say thank you again, Margie. I just linked to your thorough post from all three of my web pages for these books. It made my day to read back through your enthusiastic analyses:>)