Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reader's Diary #264- Mary Ann Hoberman (selected by): My Song Is Beautiful

It seems like I've been on a multicultural kick lately, but I've just come across so many books that have covered it so well. My Song Is Beautiful, aims that theme at children, and is no exception.

While it only features 14 poems, it's quite amazing the variety that Hoberman has represented with her selections. It has poets such as Jack Prelutsky and A. A. Milne that almost everyone has heard of, as well as those a little less recognized (by me, anyway), such as Karla Kuskin and Toni de Gerez. Plus, the art accompanying each poem is by a different person as well. Bernie Fuch's adds an oil painting, Dale DeArmond has a wood engraving, and Carol Palmer gives us a hand-tinted black and white photo, to name but three of the fourteen beautiful pictures. The varying styles and mediums are the perfect complement to the multicultural theme. Some poems clearly identify cultures that are being represented, such as "My Song", a poem from Ancient Mexico; "A Song of Greatness", a Chippewa Indian song; and "Ayii, Ayii, Ayii", a central Eskimo (though I wish she had used the term "Inuit") chant; while others such as Felice Holman's"Who Am I?" keep race out of the equation.

I can understand that people might be concerned that the variety is too much, that it's too random, and that children could be left with the message that we are all so very different from one another that quite frankly, it's pretty confusing. Not to worry, Hoberman was on top of that as well: she's made sure that the selected poems are told in the first person, center around childhood, and seem to show freedom and hope as the common link.

Furthermore, children are represented as creators as well. One poem, "No Shadow In The Water" was written by 7th grader, Nicole Hernadez and is so well done that I had to read the information at the back to find out which one was in fact written by a child. Likewise, Mary Ann Hoberman's own contribution, "You and I", was illustrated by elementary students from a Brooklyn public school.

But best of all, it passes the ultimate test: my children seem to like it as much as I. While I'm drawn to the Langston Hughes poem, "Birth", my kids have their own favourites. My daughter is drawn to the silliness of Michael Rosen's "I Know Someone", and my son, not surprisingly, has taken to Nikki Giovanni's "The Drum".


Allison said...

Sounds like it ties everything together quite nicely. I don't think I read too many poems as a young kid, not until I was at least 9, I think.

John Mutford said...

I don't remember many from before that age either. Maybe Al Pittman's "Down By Jim Long Stage".

Kelly said...

Wow this is great I am going to recommend it to our children's counseling director.

John Mutford said...

MyUtopia: Yes, it's a great find. I hope s/he takes your recommendation.