I went to my local bookstore last week to have a look at Douglas Florian's new picture book, UNBEELIEVABLES. "We don't have it in stock," Molly told me. "People don't buy books of poetry." This statement depressed me for the rest of the day. I've been trying not to think about it ever since, because it will just continue to make me depressed off and on forever.
So, let me begin by making a pitch for poetry: you should buy it. You should read it. Your kids will love it. We've got the whole oeuvre of Shel Silverstein sitting on the bookshelf in my daughter's room. When we read it, we read it aloud - sometimes 20, 30 poems in a night. Sometimes the poems are funny enough to cause us to burst out laughing. Sometimes the sheer delight of feeling words tumbling off the tongue is what sets us to giggling. We compare favorites. We re-read the ones that we can't shake out of our brains. We purposefully and accidentally memorize stanzas. If there's a more lovely, likely way to get your kid to feel the true power and magic of literature, I don't know what it is.
Florian's COMETS, STARS, THE MOON, AND MARS (Harcourt, 2007) and INSECTLOPEDIA (Harcourt, 1998) are two clearly-themed books of poetry that have enjoyed a lot of reading, re-reading and memorizing around here. Which is why I was so excited for the publication of UNBEELIEVABLES - not to mention, it's also about bees, a subject near and dear to my heart (I finally got a look at it at Barnes and Noble today). About a dozen short poems touch on such topics as drones, pollination, the queen, the waggle dance, and even CCD. Accompanying text offers more in-depth explanation for the science-minded. But the real treat, as ever, is Florian's artwork. A mixture of gouache, pencil and collage, his paintings are at once sweet, visually descriptive, and beautiful - the perfect accompaniment to the poems themselves. The picture below doesn't even begin to to them justice. Obviously, I'm a fan.