Over 120 poems, with accompanying illustrations, selected to help young readers discover the pleasures of committing verse to memory.
A good anthology, like a Whitman’s Sampler, should sate an immediate desire for sweet connection with its subject while whetting the appetite for fuller indulgence later on. This collection, so full of promise given the combined talents of these longtime collaborators, falls short of that mark. Touted as a sampling of poems both “ ‘easy to remember’ and ‘worth remembering,’ ” it should present works that sit easily in the ear and/or prove memorable for their overall effect. While Hoberman does exhume a few gems from the vast corpus of British and American verse, and Emberley’s vivid characters make the space surrounding the selected works visually appealing to younger readers, the marriage of word and image here is not always a happy one. For example, next to Dickinson’s celebrated “I’m nobody! Who are you?” an overalls-clad, mouth-less boy looks quizzically at the close-lipped frog in his hands. Dickinson’s “frog,” who famously tells its “name the livelong day / To an admiring bog,” is anything but silent. Moreover, the grouping of poems throughout—sometimes by form, others by content—seems arbitrary, ultimately making the collection’s most memorable aspects Hoberman’s introduction and concluding “suggestions for learning poetry by heart.”
An oversized, ambitious collection of verse that, in the end, proves sadly forgettable. (Poetry. 8-14)