Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Review - Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers from the Past

Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers from the Past
by Vanita Oelschlager
illustrated by Kristin Blackwood
Date: 2009
Publisher: Vanita Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Ivy in Bloom captures the weariness of a young girl tired of a long winter. "I stare out the window," she says on the first spread of brown and gray, "looking for birds or flowers / or even warm showers / but I don't see any such thing." But then Spring comes when "March is out of breath snow melting to flowery waters and watery flowers spring rose from its wintry rest." And Ivy's "heart dances with daffodils." As these words also dance across each spread, Ivy's world erupts into a riot of color.

Ivy in Bloom introduces the poetry of Dickinson, Longfellow, Browning, Wordsworth, Frost and others. Excerpts from their writings, as seen through Ivy's eyes, will open up poetry as a way for children to express their own feelings about the changing of seasons. This book includes longer excerpts and brief bios of each author.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book was a bit of a disappointment. The poetry written by Oelschlager pales in comparison to the original source material. At the back of the book, the original poems are included, with the words that were incorporated into Oelschlager's poems highlighted in green. Unfortunately, many of the more evocative words were cut out (leaving behind more banal words like "sun", "heart", and even "from"); there were so many beautiful passages that could've been included in the actual book. I suspect the author was trying to keep the language simple for kids, but when I saw what was cut out versus what was included, it all seemed a bit condescending to me.

The illustrations didn't impress me. The process did... but not the final result. Everything ends up looking a bit amateurish. (I almost think it would've worked better as straight black-and-white linoleum block prints. There wouldn't have been the ramping-up of colour as the book went from winter to spring, but I think perhaps the whole thing wouldn't have looked so Photoshopped.)

If your child is truly interested in poetry, go back to the original source material, especially A. A. Milne's works (one of which is sampled from in this book). His poems in When We Were Very Young (not When We Were Young, as this book erroneously states) and Now We Are Six are lovely and whimsical, and far more interesting than the bland imitations of famous works that are presented here.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.29 out of 5

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