Poetry Friday: The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

Friday, September 30th, 2011

I’m taking my cue for my Poetry Friday post today from my daughter.  She came home very excited about a book she encountered at school called The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base (Stoddart, 1988).  Get it out of the library for me, she insisted and so I did.  The copy was well-worn and tattered, obviously a book enjoyed by many.  A truly interactive book, The Eleventh Hour, in rhyming quatrains, sets out a mystery for the reader to solve through clues found on each of the elaborately illustrated pages.  Horace, the elephant has turned eleven, and has invited all his friends to a birthday gathering at his estate.  There will be a tremendous feast to be served at the eleventh hour — however, while the guests spend the day doing various activities, someone consumes the entire banquet, leaving nothing but crumbs for the hungry guests at 11:00.  Who has eaten all the goodies?  You the reader, must find out by deciphering all the clues found on each page.  A key at the back will help you if you are really stumped.

My daughter and I spent a Saturday afternoon together with this book, trying to figure out the clues.  It was tough, but fun!  Similar to his earlier Animalia which my daughter also enjoyed, this book is all about looking closely and in that way, reminded me a little of Anno Mitsumasa’s picture books.  If you and your child like a real good puzzle and figuring out clues, then this is the book for you.  And the rhymes aren’t all that bad either!

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Sara at Read Write Believe.

Poetry Friday: The Animals by Michio Mado

Friday, February 25th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago Sally wrote a Books at Bedtime post about Mitsumasa Anno‘s Animals, which sent me back to my collection of his books. Among them, I have another book with a very similar title: The Animals – a book of selected poems by Michio Mado, who is perhaps Japan’s best know poet for children. The poems here have been translated by the Empress Michiko of Japan, and are beautifully presented on gold pages, Japanese on the left, English on the right, with a frieze of animals created by Anno running along the bottom.

Each poem breathes from its double-page spread, and gives the reader thinking space. The book was published by Margaret K. McElderry, who died recently – and it is a testimony to the wonderful work she did in unerringly bringing beautiful picture books into being.

My copy of The Animals was once a library book and one of its previous young readers felt passionately enough about one of the poems to draw around its title on the Contents page very carefully with a felt tip pen. So that is the poem I will share with you today.


Butterflies close their wings
When they go to sleep.
They are so small,
In nobody’s way.
Yet they fold themselves
In half

And this lovely one, “A Dog Walks”, about trying to work out how a dog moves its legs when its walking:

How about tying
On each leg a bell,
Each with a different sound?


Then shall I know?

I wonder?

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Sara Lewis Holmes at Read Write Believe – head on over.

Letting Her Hair Down

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Caribbean RapunzelIn her recent New York Review of Books survey of contemporary Rapunzel interpretations, novelist Alison Lurie points out both how enduring and how flexible fairy tales are. Rapunzel is in vogue these days. Lurie gives all the relevant details of Rapunzel’s recent manifestations and offers lots of pithy observations, but the article doesn’t include links to the books themselves. So here they are; read Lurie’s article and check these out!

In the young adult novel Golden: A Retelling of “Rapunzel”, one of Simon and Schuster’s fairy tale retelling series, this one by Cameron Dokey, the poor girl’s tower-length locks are an infuriating nuisance. The Tower Room by Adele Geras (Harcourt Paperbacks) is set in a 1960’s English boarding school probably modeled on the school Geras (and Princess Diana) attended. One of Donna Jo Napoli’s series of retold tales, Zel (Puffin) is set in 16th century Switzerland. Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel (Hyperion) is a picture book by Patricia Storace, “lavishly illustrated” by Raúl Colón. (Here’s a PaperTigers gallery of illustrations by Colón!) Letters from Rapunzel (HarperCollins) is a teen novel about a girl who sees the myth’s relevance in her own life and re-names herself Rapunzel; here’s a 7-Imp interview with author Sara Lewis Holmes. Barbara Ragasky’s Rapunzel (Holiday House), with much lauded illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, may be out of print but is available online. Lynn Roberts’ Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale (Abrams), says Lurie, appears to be set in 1970’s New York.

The long hair, the witch, the tower, the inadequate jealous mother, the adopted child and adoptive parents, the rescuing prince–the themes of Rapunzel have been re-told for our times with great verve and vivacity, and Alison Lurie’s thorough and entertaining perspective is not to be missed.