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THE DEATH OF THE HAT by Paul B. Janeczko Kirkus Star


A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects

by Paul B. Janeczko ; illustrated by Chris Raschka

Pub Date: March 10th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6963-8
Publisher: Candlewick

Janeczko and Raschka reunite for a fourth anthology, featuring poems spanning two millennia.

The unifying conceit—all the poems focus on objects—has a grounding effect, helping readers perceive linkages among the poets across centuries. As Janeczko observes in a pithy introduction, poems are grouped within nine sections named for major periods of Western cultural history, such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Nonetheless, he “could not ignore the strong poems…found from Eastern poets.” The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi observes a candle, “made to become entirely flame.” Seventeenth-century Japanese master Basho muses, “Midnight frost— / I’d borrow / the scarecrow’s shirt.” Twelve women are represented, including Phillis Wheatley, Christina Rossetti and Sylvia Plath. Some poems are famous: William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” is here, as well as Robert Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose.” Less familiar choices are poignant, even cheeky: John Updike’s “Lament, for Cocoa” rues, “The scum has come. / My cocoa’s cold.” Raschka’s playful watercolors on crisp, white backgrounds distill both images and emotions from the poems. In “The Cat and the Moon,” he visually parallels William Butler Yeats’ lines, the cat’s eyes echoing the crescent moon’s shape. The white goose of Cui Tu’s “A Solitary Wildgoose” appears throughout, flying alone until uniting with a flock on the back endpapers.

Another winning collaboration from two luminaries.

(acknowledgements) (Picture book/poetry. 8-12)