Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: Imaginary Menagerie (Poetry Friday)

Imaginary Menagerie combines mythological creatures, crisp poems for the four-to eight-year old reader, and sumptuous illustrations into one first-class picture book. Imaginary Menagerie is an instant classic--one that will appeal to boys and girls, one that makes a great bedtime read and a classroom staple. It's a knockout.

Subtitled A Book of Curious Creatures, Imaginary Menagerie puts the emphasis on curious. Poet Julie Larios writes about, or from the point of view of, a variety of fascinating creatures--including the Centaur, Hobgoblins, Gargoyles, Naga, and the Sphinx among others. Larios's poems rhyme, but each individual poem has its own rhyme scheme and meter. Larios keeps it simple for her intended audience, but includes a sly touch of humor or moments of solemnity for older children and adults reading this beauty aloud. Take, for example, the final three lines of the six-line "Centaur": "Can he be half man, half horse?/The answer is no./And yes, of course." Or, consider the final four lines of "Sphinx": "But the cat-man sleeps./He never even stirs./No one can answer/the sand."

And Julie Paschkis's illustrations? They are dramatic, rich in color, and simply gorgeous. They resemble stylized woodcuts infused with deep, warm color. Paschkis modifies her paintings ever so slightly--but not too much so that she loses her own style--to match the culture from which the subject was born. Paschkis's Sphinx is more angular, more elongated than her other subjects, her Firebird explodes into a Russified sky, Thunderbird appears as a totem figure on the move.

Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures is a book to treasure, a book to give, a book to keep forever.

Other Blog Reviews:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Don't miss this one: Jules and Eisha share a poem from Imaginary Menagerie and illustrations from the book.)
Charlotte's Library
Kelly Fineman (scroll down)
I thought of writing an original poem this week on the subject of grading final papers. Then I realized it would go something like this:


and decided to write a review instead. Here's wishing you a happy Poetry Friday. The Two Writing Teachers are on the roundup.