Monday, April 18, 2011

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children

by Caroline Kennedy
illustrated by Jon Muth

Poetry is a beautiful language that expresses our deepest emotions and questions the world around us.  As we encounter special events in our lives, we often turn to poets who are able to express our thoughts and feelings when we cannot find the words.  A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy and illustrated by Jon Muth is a must have in every home.  I was drawn to this book right from the cover.  There is a photograph of Caroline, as a child, sitting in a small chair “reading” to her teddy bear.  As I opened the cover of the book the rich red lined textured endpapers made me have a feeling of warmth and family.  There is a thoughtful introduction about the significance poetry has had in Caroline’s life and it certainly encouraged  and motivated me to do more with poetry with my own two children. 
Caroline has gathered a collection of one hundred six poems from her childhood.  This collection is divided into seven categories: About Me, That’s So Silly, Animals, The Seasons, The Seashore, Adventure, and Bedtime.   All of these categories are influential in a child’s life.  This anthology has a wide variety of authors.  Some of the authors are known for their children’s work such as A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack Prelutsky, and Edward Lear.  Other authors that are included have published work for all ages such as Robert Frost, William Wadsworth, T.S. Eliot, and William Shakespeare.  There are also two poems from the Bible; Psalm 23 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  Kennedy also included two poems that her mother wrote, credited to Jacqueline Bouvier. Some of these poems may be difficult for children to understand. However, the pattern, rhythm and love of language will be easy and fun for them to fall in love with.  There is also a variety of categories from lyrical, free verse, sonnets, and haiku. 
The illustrations throughout this book are magnificent.  Muth’s richly textured watercolor paintings add to the depth of these poems.  Pages 70-71 shows a double page spread of a girl standing on a large rose with wings on her back, as she holds a bucket with a rose inside.  There are two poems shared with this illustration.  One by William Shakespeare Ariel’s Song The Tempest V, I, 104-110 and one by Robert Frost The Rose Family.  The deep rich colors capture the spirit of the poems. 
There is no doubt that this book was a labor of love.  There are many poems in this collection that people from all over the world can relate too.  There are ten poems that have been translated into English in the collection.  However, at the end of the book, Kennedy includes the ten poems in the native language.  Poetry is a magical language that speaks to our hearts.  It doesn’t matter what county or city you are from or if you are rich or poor.  Poetry can connect us in very powerful ways. 
At the beginning of each section, Kennedy shares a part of her life as she recollects the importance or the memories of the poems she has selected.  This is an excerpt from the introduction she shared before “About Me.”
“Poetry has been called the language of the human heart, and part of what poems communicate can’t even be put into words.  But because poems speak an authentic language, they help us to teach as well as to learn.  When we read a poem in which the poet is speaking from the heart, we can learn about ourselves as well as about the author, for poets put into words the feelings that all of us have.”

This is a beautiful collection of poems for the young and old.  They are funny; they inspire; they make us happy.  They even help adults take a trip down memory lane.  These well crafted words can evoke strong feelings and emotions and help us have a new perspective and appreciation for our lives.

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