Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Ok, so this one is going to join my very hard to get on to "Absolute Favorites" tag. I only have one other book there, so, yeah. I know Terry Pratchett is a hugely successful author, but his more fantasy oriented books have left me cold., and I like fantasy. This, however, I read in one day and mourned when it was over.

My nine-year-old who reads everything couldn't get in to Nation and so that tells me what I already knew - this is more of a cross-over novel and you have to be willing to go a few chapters before you're hooked. You have to understand (or at least be aware of) the history of colonialism, and you have to have the vision to see that this is about so much more than boy meets girl on a post-tsunami deserted island. And is still a wonderful story of (unconsummated) love and a story of hope for mankind that leaves you mad at the author for not making it all OK. It's kind of like Titanic the movie - but really much better- except the boat doesn't sink- it lands on a forest.

'Nuff said. You really have to read it.

Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski

I have been inspired by Joyce Sidman to get back to what I love doing best - reading brilliant children's literature and raving about it to any unfortunate who happens to become snared in the dense thicket of the kid-lit blogging bush.
There are a lot of poems about color out there and I am sure that practically any elementary-aged child in the English-speaking world has had to write one. It's pretty easy and has a low-risk level (unlike my cat - long story). However, like most things that are pretty easy to do, they are really hard to do well.
I have spent many an early morning and late evening in my yard trying to think of an opening line for a poem about a cardinal. When you live in the northern regions of this fair land, the sight of a cardinal's scarlet plumage against eye-searing-white snow is sometimes the only hope you have that the world is still turning and you're not stuck in this frozen wasteland forever. Don't get me wrong, winter is beautiful when it first comes and everything is clean white,
"White dazzles day
and turns night
inside out."
But, at a certain point, you need to see green.
Luckily for me, Sidman knows this, too and she's got a magical touch with words. It's like she got inside my heart - because, truly, that's where poetry germinates - and translated it in to these beautiful poems - because, truly, that's what the poets you love do.
"And Red?
Red beats inside me:
Sidman is frugal but never meagre with her words. They take on the exact shape, smell, and feel of the season's passing colors. The verses are short but complete and leave pleanty of room for the stunning art work of Zagarenski. Verse and picture blend seemlessly together. Zagarenski never tries to "outcolor" the poems, and her palate is rich and delicious just when it needs to be. Zagarenski also illustrated Sidman's This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness and the same crowned and whimsically dressed figures run through these pages. The cardinal is ever present with his own crimson crown and a dog follows along, too. Each page tells a story and I discover something new every time I read the book.
Luckily for us, Sidman and Zagarenski know how to make a simple thing look and sound stunningly difficult.