Books by Myra Cohn Livingston

CALENDAR by Myra Cohn Livingston
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2007

Livingston's brief, through-the-months poem gets a vibrant treatment in this appealing picture book. There's one short line for each double spread, providing the accomplished Hillenbrand with plenty of possibilities for the bright, mixed-media, full-bleed pictures full of references to the work of Ezra Jack Keats. A busy girl festoons the ex-Christmas tree with treats for the birds in January, proudly shows a Valentine paper chain in February and flies a rainbow-striped box kite in March. At "Picnics are July," she and her family sit silhouetted against a sky lit with fireworks. For "September whistles by," a school bus's headlights cut through the early morning fog, as the backpacking, lunchbox-clutching girl clings to a grown up's hand. December garners three wintry double spreads plus a glimpse of Santa on the final page. A short, sweet treat for storytimes, and a nice impetus for families to discuss their own activities through the year. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

The process of writing poetry can be looked at as a chicken-or-egg problem: Which comes first, the images or the words? Inspired by a magnetic-word poetry set, Livingston (Cricket Never Does, p. 642, etc.) explains in an introduction how she launched students in her master class in poetry on a fascinating study of how disparate words could be connected in coherent, artful ways. This delightful collection features works by Alice Schertle, Janet Wong, and Tony Johnston, among others; each student was given one wordthen three, then sixthat had to be included in a poem. The possibilities are endless, as shown in the diverse styles and range of the pieces: Some are brilliant and touching, others are humorous, some are silly. It's not a book for browsersthe poems are most revealing when read togetherbut is a teaching tool, by students, to use with and inspire other students. (index) (Poetry. 10+) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1997

Livingston (B Is for Baby, 1996, etc.) presents poems using the traditional Japanese forms of haiku and tanka in a seasonal array, accompanied by de Kiefte's equally spare pen-and-ink drawings. ``Not wishing to stop/his chirping the whole night long,/Cricket never does'' is the piece that gives the collection a title. From such deceptively simple lines young poets may apply themselves to mastering this economic form of expression, for the examples in Livingston's slim volume set a standard. From the witty (``Now that Christmas is/over, poinsettias are/busy dropping leaves'') to the startling call to the imagination (``Close your eyes! Feel the/pale eyeballs of a dead cat . . . /two peeled purple grapes'') and the impressionistically evocative (``Floating in by way/of last night's late weather news . . . /a piece of lost storm''), there are constant flashes of the poet's vision, insight, and conviction. (Poetry. 10-14) Read full book review >
B IS FOR BABY by Myra Cohn Livingston
ABC BOOKS
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A photograph album of ordinary verses about extraordinary babies by a poet (Festivals, p. 456, etc.) who has written more portentous works, but perhaps not such personal ones. Arranged alphabetically, most of the verses use the designated letter to describe the baby in an activity pictured, e.g., B for ``Bathtub-Baby,'' K for ``Kicking-Baby,'' T for ``Throwing-Baby,'' etc. Some of the verses are unpolished—``Christmas-Baby'' ``falls asleep/and smiles to be/dreaming/of her Christmas tree''—while others are pedestrian —``glad to see/his mother's face,/glad to see/his special space,/glad to hear/his doggy bark,/glad he'll get to/see the park.'' The march through the alphabet can be a bit grim and determined, with V for baby's ``Vim and Vigor,'' X for the kisses a baby is trying to escape, and Y for older babies who know how to ``Yell.'' A few display humor and originality: ``Swinging-Baby'' is a poem that swings with the playground equipment and gives readers plenty of leeway for its recitation. The babies—in a multiracial array—are portrayed in inventive photographs that convey the children as strong individuals; when photo and poem mesh, the result can be quite winsome. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
FESTIVALS by Myra Cohn Livingston
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 15, 1996

Festivals ($16.95; March 15, 1996; 32 pp.; 0-8234-1217-2): In a companion to this pair's Celebrations (1985), colorful streamers beckon readers toward 14 poems commemorating holidays, from the Creek Indian New Year and the Vietnamese festival of clean slates, to the bonfires of the Iranian Now-Ruz. The celebrations aren't all noisy: cherry blossoms get quiet praise, as do the saplings of Arbor Day. In fact, the timbre of Livingston's words often varies—fierce for Purim, hushed for Luciadagen, suppressed excitement for the Hindu Diwali. Fisher's paintings are also varied, a series of memorable images evoking entire events and cultures. (glossary) (Picture book/poetry. 5-10) . . . Read full book review >
CALL DOWN THE MOON by Myra Cohn Livingston
POETRY
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

A collection of poems from Livingston (If You Ever Meet a Whale, 1992, etc.) with a focus on music in all its variety, loosely organized into 12 sections, with titles such as ``Fiddles and Cellos'' and ``Brass and Percussion'' (featuring poems about instruments), ``Time to Practice,'' ``Other Musicians'' (the music of nature), and ``All of Me Sings.'' From William Shakespeare and William Blake to Langston Hughes and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the offerings run the gamut, with room for the melancholy of Paul Verlain's ``Autumn Song'' (``Autumn's long sobbing/Violin throbbing/A tuneless strain'') as well as the bolder, brassier joys of John Ciardi and Valerie Worth. A lyrical, boisterous, humorous, and tender celebration of music. (indexes) (Anthology/poetry. 10+) Read full book review >
PLATERO Y YO/PLATERO AND I by Juan Ramón Jiménez
ANIMALS
Released: April 18, 1994

Selected from the 138 chapters of Platero y yo (by the winner of the 1956 Nobel Prize for Literature), 19 vignettes in the original Spanish plus Livingston's English, based on Dominguez's literal translation. These prose poems concerning JimÇnez's Andalusian village and its inhabitants are linked by the poet's affection for the little donkey Platero, sometimes an actor here and sometimes a confidant, and by the orderly passage of time—life, death, and the seasons. The book ends with a series of episodes from Christmas to Carnival. The poet scarcely reveals himself except as an observer. Of his friendship with the donkey, he remarks that ``We understand each other. I let him go wherever he wishes and always he takes me where it is I wish to go''; his lyrical descriptions of the village sights and sounds and such simple happenings as fireworks or calling to Platero in an echoing valley are vividly evocative. Even the inherently dramatic (e.g., a mother dog rescuing her pups) is so understated that it's not the event but the mood that lingers in the memory. Frasconi's handsome full-bleed woodcuts, too, center on mood and setting, their rich colors subtly muted, their expressive images like ``emotion recollected in tranquillity.'' A lovely book, for a discerning audience. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
IF YOU EVER MEET A WHALE by Myra Cohn Livingston
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 15, 1992

Seventeen poems on whales, interestingly varied in tone though somewhat uneven in quality. Beginning with Ciardi's humorous explanation of ``Why Noah Praised the Whale'' (he didn't have to feed it) and several other amusing entries, the collection moves on to mothers and babies, whale songs (Yolen's ``Sea Canary''), some Native American verse about hunting, and a somber conclusion: di Pasquale's ``Stranding,'' Tony Johnston's ``Beached,'' and Lilian Moore's ``The Whale Ghost'' (``When we've emptied/the sea of the/last great/whale...''). The five specially commissioned poems are among the weakest (the muse is never easy to command). Still, as a whole, this is an effective and thoughtful tribute, with Fisher's handsome full-bleed paintings as a noble complement to the verse: the huge, streamlined whales and the subtle contrasts between their rich, dark hues and the deep undersea blue-greens are wonderfully suited to his monumental style and elegantly simple compositions. (Poetry/Picture book. 7+) Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 15, 1992

Touching on the high points and incorporating many of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s own words (printed in boldface), Livingston surveys his life and celebrates his achievements in strongly cadenced stanzas that, in their succinct evocation of an important historic figure, recall the BenÇts' A Book of Americans (1933). Choosing points of view well below his subjects' eye level, Byrd enhances the drama of the events and the heroic stature of the participants in powerful watercolors that make effective use of contrasts between light and dark. A moving tribute. Citations for the artwork (place, date, circumstances) and for the quotes. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
LIGHT AND SHADOW by Myra Cohn Livingston
POETRY
Released: April 15, 1992

Fourteen well-composed color photos explore the interplay of light and dark in intriguingly varied settings—the cool blue of the ocean at twilight or the fiery glow of sunrise; a campfire glow or a stream's midday shimmer; a funhouse mirror or a cascade of shining coins from a toll machine, silhouetted—by some alchemy—against black. Livingston explores the visual images in poems that might be termed verbal paintings, each beginning with the word ``Light'' and composed of four brief verses: ``Light finds/a place to rest/on peeling windowsills,/lazes//among/branches of a/towering tree caught in/white sky,'' begins ``Abandoned House,'' which faces a curious composition resulting from a window that reflects trees and sky- -except where panes are missing. An interesting and artful book that might inspire other verbal/visual pairings. (Nonfiction. 6+) Read full book review >
I NEVER TOLD AND OTHER POEMS by Myra Cohn Livingston
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1992

A new assortment of captured moments, observations small and large, sharp opinions, memories, and mood pieces, cast in a variety of forms from the concrete poetry of ``Niagara: Canadian Horseshoe Falls'' to the Japanese formality of ``Moon: Two Views.'' Many of the poems concern travel—``Flying West,'' ``Morning at Malibu,'' ``Rocky Mountains: Colorado''; several are linked by an autumnal air—``Tomato vines wither./ Daisies turn brown...'' and, again, ``August/ daisies turn brown/ and wither, their tangled hair/ mussing up...'' or ``Under the dusty windowsill./ Dust on the spider, dust on her kill''; still others have an antiwar stance, or commemorate some quotidian event. Livingston uses simple, clear language, and her voice is generally childlike, though it shades toward an adult point of view in ``Give Me Books, Give Me Wings'' and, perhaps, ``I Would Have Come.'' A good showcase for this versatile poet. (Poetry. 9-12) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 15, 1991

As Livingston says in her introduction, she invites young people ``to make the image, the thought, even the sound [of an experience] come alive...by arranging words, making a sort of music...to experience the joy of making a poem.'' This detailed, carefully organized volume makes the invitation irresistible. Admirably, the author doesn't condescend to her audience by skimping on the complexities; she gives the real concepts and terminology—apostrophe, tercet, consonance, dactyl, cinquain- -building from voice to the patterns and uses of sound to imagery, explaining with consummate clarity and generously providing excellent examples with a wide range of sophistication: Mother Goose to Fitzgerald's Homer. She's never pedantic; her eye and ear are consistently on the poem that the devices serve, while her occasional questions to the reader are not merely rhetorical but well framed to provoke imaginative thought. The last chapter is on concrete poetry, with some delightful examples of typography mimicking and extending meaning. Like a provocative poem, the book leaves readers without a neatly wrapped conclusion—the better, perhaps, to continue their own thoughts. An inspiring introduction to a notably thorny but potentially rewarding topic. Index. (Nonfiction. 10-14) Read full book review >