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Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Stick is an Excellent Thing, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin. Thomas Allen & Son, 2012. $19.99 ages 4 and up


A flick of the wrist,
a really quick scoop,
a dozen at once
from the top of the stoop.
I'm the boss of the toss,
so you cannot relax.
When you play with me,
I'm the queen of the jacks."

Here we are in the middle of Canada anticipating a dip in the Arctic air mass due to land right on top of us. Now, that can bring very cold temperatures; but, with a strong wind, it can only get worse! The weather service is telling us that by bedtime the wind chill with be -42...and that is COLD in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.

So, I turn to thoughts of summer and watching with delight the many games that kids find to play in warm weather...and outdoors. Each of the poems in Marilyn Singer's wonderful new collection celebrates that play. I chose Jacks because it is a game we loved ourselves as children and I don't often see it being played these days.

The author includes poems about walking on 'edges'...curbs, rims, ledges, about skateboarding, puddle splashing, skipping, bubbles, running through the sprinkler. It makes you want to find a way to share the fun inside, or to think of inside games that you can play and try a poem about them. She is a wonderful mentor for finding the perfect word, phrase, and fun:


This hill is small. The grass feels fluffy.
Mama says it's called a knoll.
We're glad our clothes are old and scruffy.
When we go down, we never stroll -
we roll!"

We used to do that...I didn't know it had a special name. Barreling seems apt and descriptive for it.
And then the stick...all the games to be played with one. Kids will love to add to the list that she has created for them in her poem about their excellence for magical fun.

The illustrations are filled with bold-colored motion, and constantly changing perspectives. LeYuen Pham peoples her spreads with bright-eyed smiling children who are obviously getting all the outdoor sunshine and exercise needed to keep them healthy and happy. There is so much to see as the poems are shared. A winning collaboration and a most enjoyable read!

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