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WHAT THE HEART KNOWS by Joyce Sidman Kirkus Star


Chants, Charms, and Blessings

by Joyce Sidman ; illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Age Range: 12 - 18

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-544-10616-1
Publisher: Harcourt

Profound, lushly illustrated poems explore some of life’s more trying moments.

In their third collaboration, Sidman and Zagarenski (Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors, 2009, etc.) combine their Newbery Honor– and Caldecott Honor–worthy talents to tackle life’s more ineffable conditions. Lyrically arranging the collection’s 29 poems into groupings such as “Chants & Charms” and “Laments & Remembrances,” Sidman takes a serious look at a number of moments likely to concern young teens. The volume’s title bespeaks the tricky blend of rationality and emotion inherent in often baffling situations like aging, loss, and loneliness, and Sidman employs deftly sophisticated verse to engage them head on. Especially provocative is her direct address of a subject like happiness— “Happiness, you’re like a breeze / sucked in by eager lungs. / You fill and feed us, / and yet somehow, in the exhale, / you are shared”—coupled with Zagarenski’s richly layered, slightly surreal depiction of a figure trying to catch this transitory state. In many spreads, the abstract suggestiveness of Zagarenski’s fanciful mixed-media paintings and digital renderings contrasts wonderfully with Sidman’s bold metaphors, as in “Blessing from the Stars”: “We are the stars. / We sing with our light /… / alone, / together.”

A winning combination of word and image sure to challenge young readers both to contemplate big subjects and to act. (Poetry. 12 & up)