Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Review - A Year of Nature Poems

A Year of Nature Poems
by Joseph Coelho
illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd
Date: 2019
Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated poetry collection
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

See how animals behave through the seasons, and the cycle of trees and plants, from the first blossoms of spring through to the stark winter wonderland in December. 12 inspiring poems from Joseph Coelho, paired with folk art from Kelly Louise Judd give this book year-round appeal.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I didn't love this. I think part of the problem is that I was expecting something suitable for children, but this really isn't. The vocabulary is way too advanced, and some of the subject matter may have little kids saying, "What?" There's a mention of grandmother's "wobbly incontinence", and the poem for May is about puberty.

I also wasn't impressed with the writing and editing. There were some missing spaces in some of the poem introductions, and a glaring comma splice in May's intro as well. Also, I get that there's a certain amount of poetic licence allowed in a book like this--it is free verse, after all--but I still expect to see possessives and dialogue punctuated properly.

The environmental conservation message that's woven through the poems is nice, but I'm not sure the little introductions really work. They're a little too explain-y for adults (who would get the messages of the poems without the little blurbs) and kind of pointless for kids, who won't understand a good deal of the language in some of the poems. Here's a sampling of some of the vocabulary:

murmurations, Rorschach, air-shoals, crèche, draught, hurst, verges, discipled, pubescent, exultation, incontinence, groynes, indiscriminate, squidge, reliquary, accumulation

Now, I don't know about you, but having to explain all of those words would be tiring. (Especially since you might have to look a few of them up yourself! Even my spellchecker balked at a few.) I'm all for including challenging vocabulary in children's books, but the text in this one goes far beyond challenging; I'm afraid many kids would just give up.

The painted illustrations are kind of hit-and-miss for me. Some of them are really pretty, while others just left me cold. I'm also not convinced that black text on a dark blue background (for the October poem) was the best choice; I found it kind of difficult to read.

If this had been marketed as a poetry book for teens or adults, I might have gone into it with different expectations. But because it's supposedly a children's book, I couldn't help but notice the mismatch between the intended audience and the book itself. The only value I can see in this one for very small children is the visual aspect; I doubt they're going to get much out of these memoir-like poems that go too far beyond the experiences of childhood.

Thank you to NetGalley and Wide Eyed Editions for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs

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