Friday, March 21, 2008

Poetry Friday/ Reader's Diary #337- Eileen Spinelli and Eugenie Fernandes (Illustrations): Polar Bear, Arctic Hare

Polar Bear, Arctic Hare; Poems of the Frozen North by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes is the latest edition to my family's slow but steady growing collection of arctic-themed books.

Initially, I wasn't overly fond of this book. For one, Fernandes' illustrations didn't really appeal to me. For a book of poetry, I thought they were a little bland. The sketchy sort of style, with the canvas lines showing through, made them look dated. They lacked any interesting angles and everything seemed just too realistic. It's not that I wanted a walrus with three heads, but when poetry relies so heavily on figurative language and images, I think accompanying illustrations should make an equal effort.

Secondly, I thought Spinelli's poetry was a little too generic, too typical of poetry aimed at kids: an over-reliance on the ABCB rhyme scheme, a few similes here and there and a joke thrown in sporadically. Such books aren't bad to introduce children to a few basic poetic devices but are easily forgotten.

But then I liked the theme, and I thought the addition of "Arctic Facts" at the back was a good idea. Eventually I went back and realized I had generalized Spinelli's poetry a bit too much. She uses more styles than I at first gave her credit. In "Guess" she sets up the poem as a series of riddles, all designed to lead to the answer "the killer whale." In "Arctic Nursery Rhyme" she revamps "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary" to make it more northern. As a teacher, I think it would prove to be very useful for children to model Spinelli's creations.

Perhaps my favourite in the book is "Caribou":

Across the tundra
Caribou coming.
Racing and chasing
Caribou coming.
Thrumming and drumming
Caribou coming.
Romping and stomping
Caribou coming.
Hammering, clamouring
Caribou coming.
Thundering, rumbling
Caribou coming.
In waves, cascades
Caribou coming
   and coming
      and coming
         and coming
            and coming.

by Eileen Spinelli
(Used by permission)

Polar Bear, Arctic Hare (2007) is published by Wordsong, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press.


tanita✿davis said...

For some reason even the shape of this poem even works with it -- and the -ing endings evoke a sort of thrum that just says herd animals. This is neat.

- And because I saw the cover of Lolita I think you're a trooper to have finished it. I had to read it for grad school, and by the time he got to that fate bit, I had to quit. He made me want to vomit. Of course, that made for a great paper topic!

Teena in Toronto said...

Thanks for adding me to the Challenge :)

John Mutford said...

Tadmack, it does capture the magnitude for sure.

Teena: You're welcome!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I do like the feel of that caribou poem. Very hoofy sounding!