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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dear Hot Dog,written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Abrams, 2011. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"My cup gives
a shape to
shapeless milk
and orange juice -
a cup shape.
It puts a handle
on them,
so I can lift them
and pour them
into me.
Thanks, cup."

Well, who knew that Mordicai Gerstein is an accomplished poet? Writer? Yes, no question. Perhaps he has done this before, but I have not had the pleasure of reading any other of his poetry. I am definitely a fan!

He takes three kids, their daily lives and constructs a bed-to-bed compendium of verse about those things that are most familiar to them. We meet all three in the opening pages, sleeping, waking and rising to greet a new and sunny day. The first poem is a chat between a bespectacled young boy, one hand full of an oozing toothpaste tube, the other diligently brushing morning breath away. Not that he likely minds; it is just a part of his daily routine. As the next young man dons favored pants, we learn a little about their relationship:

"I hear your buttons
clicking in
the spinning dryer.
You emerge, limp
and lifeless,
till I slip my legs
inside you.
You're alive again!"

On they go, from toes to socks to shoes...each having interesting turns of phrases, well-chosen, descriptive language and a connection to the lives led. The outdoors fun includes kite flying and swimming, eating hot dogs and ice cream cones, the seasons and rain. Of course, there are books:

"Words can frighten.
Words can sing.
Words can tickle.
Words can sting.
Words show us
never seen before."


The artwork is a terrific match for the poems included. Using acrylics on paper, Mr. Gerstein paints a warm and gentle atmosphere for these children...full of movement, playful activity and everyday undertakings. He gives us characters with connections to each other and to their daily undertakings. Fun to share or to read alone in a quiet corner, these poems provide a sense of  'I can do that!' for young writers...take what you know and expand on it. Listen to their words and see what they do to create character, mood, and a sense of wonder in the everydayness of our lives.

The final poem gives a perfect description for the pillow that each night welcomes a sleepy head:

"My pillow sleeps
all day,
dreaming it's
a cloud,"

What an apt image before sleep!

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