Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry

This Big Book is kinda a Big Disappointment

This had some good reviews and looked pretty I bought it for the library, as we are doing poetry this month. I zipped it home last night for a quick preview.....and I'm rather disappointed.

First, there's a typo. Now, a typo is not a big deal in a novel or something because you just read past it, but in a book of poems? Bad, very bad. (Enquiring minds - it's on page 17, the second to the last line of Aileen Fisher's poem "Caterpillars" - "But that is more THAT I can do" - it should be THAN). Especially when you then spend the rest of the reading experience looking for more typos.

Then - and this is just weird - there's a couple spots where it looks like they were running out of ink, especially on page 114. I mean, big fancy book, you should check your ink cartridges, right?
Standards - people just don't have 'em anymore.

The art side is my biggest peeve. First, on page 117, for May Swenson's poem "Painting the Gate" David Gordon drew a boy with purple paint everywhere. Um....apparently he didn't read the poem, or just took some extreme artistic licence, because it's supposed to be BLUE. "Postal blue" to be specific. Which isn't even remotely purple.

Secondly, the book claims to be full of art by "award-winning artists." Well, yes there is some beautiful artwork by Chris Raschka, Lois Ehlert, Nancy Tafuri, Steven Kellogg (except for the picture on page 100 - judging by the hideous face, he had an off day). BUT, a large portion of the artwork is done by Robert Quackenbush (well-known yes, but I'm not aware of any awards), Paul Meisel, Laura Logan, and a couple others. Not that their art isn't nice or anything and maybe they've won a bunch of awards I'm not aware of but....

The exact numbers are: Laura Logan, 16. Her art is nice - pedestrian, not particularly outstanding, just...nice. Robert Quackenbush, 12. I really like his easy readers, but I've never been a fan of his rather dark and convoluted style. Paul Meisel, 12. Another unknown, at least to me, sometimes his art's really good, sometimes it's just boring. Chris Raschka, 12. Not my favorite, but I can appreciate it. Aliki, 11. Now there's an artist. No masterpieces, just simple, workable, well-done art. Steven Kellogg, 9. One of my favorites, but just doesn't seem to fit here. Derek Anderson, 9 - another pedestrian artist. Nice, but nothing special. Henry Cole, 9. An excellent realistic artist, plenty of strong feeling and color. Dan Yaccarino, 8. Not one of my favorites, but I can appreciate him. David Gordan, 8. Kinda an inferior copy of Henry Cole. Nancy Tafuri, 7. Beautiful. Just...beautiful. And our collage-y artists are at the end, with 5 for Lois Ehlert and 4 for Ashley Bryan. No need to say anything about them!

Now, the poems themselves are mostly a pretty good selection. Lots of classic Aileen Fisher, a nice mix of various authors, lots of undeservedly obscure Margaret Wise Brown, and so on. Plus some by Bill Martin Jr. Now "Storyteller" (pg. 80) is a good one, but "City Song" (pg. 68)? I mean, even if the collection is sort of commemorating the guy, you couldn't find anything better? It's horribly banal and after reading the other selections hits you with a flat plop.

Verdict: In conclusion - I'm not sorry I bought it. "Really?" Really. The poems are a pretty good selection, there is a lot of marvelous art, and I think people will be grabbed by the cover. It's could have been so much better.

ISBN: 978-1416939719; Published November 2008 by Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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