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Monday, April 23, 2012

Forget-Me-Nots, selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Michael Emberley. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2012. $21.99 ages 7 and up

"You'll pick out your favorites
From those that you've read
And invite them to live in
The house in your head.
This house is called Memory,
Everyone knows,
And the more you put in it,
The larger it grows."

I tout poetry as a great way to get kids reading. Nursery rhymes are perfect when they are young so that they will hear the rhythm of language and come to know rhyme which is the basis of much of their early reading. I don't want them to feel about poetry as I did in school. We are blessed to have so many wonderful poets writing for children today, and to have Mary Ann Hoberman, an intrepid poet in her own right to remind us of its power and beauty.

For this book she has chosen more than 100 poems, each meant to show young readers how much fun it is to discover poems to love and to commit to memory for a lifetime of pure enjoyment. In her  introduction she mentions that there are poems here for everyone, and that some will become favorites while others will not:

"Memorable has two meanings: "easy to remember" and "worth remembering." While some poems will take longer to memorize than others, all of them have been chosen with ease of memorization in mind. And more important, all of them are worth remembering."

Not all of the poems included will be for all readers. Some will make you laugh, some will make you think, and others will not speak to you in the same way that they do to others. That is the way when reading anything. Ms. Hoberman's suggestions run the gamut from light, short verse to tongue twisters, to characterization, to longer verses that will challenge those who look for just such a poem.

She has selected from a wide range of poets, many favorites of mine and some who are unknown to me. That leads me to look for more, and I like that! I was not one of those kids who memorized much poetry when I was young; at least, beyond all the nursery rhymes that our Mom shared when we were growing up. I did, however, share poetry with the children in my class every day and I am often surprised at how many I know 'by heart' without ever intentionally learning them. They were favorites of ours and I read them so often, and said them so often, that I still have them etched in 'the house called Memory.'

An index of first lines following the various sections, aptly named The Short of It, One and All, Beautiful Beasts, Delicious Dishes, It's About Time, Happiness Is, Weather and Seasons, Sad and Sorrowful, Strange and Mysterious, Poems from Storybooks, and The Long of It, will take readers quickly back to their favorites. I have already highlighted mine, and I know exactly the section I would suggest to certain students. You just know who's going to love which ones, don't you?

As well, there are suggestions from the author concerning the best way to learn a poem by heart:

"The more you look at and listen to the lines, the more you see and hear in them. And the more you see and hear in them, the better you remember them. Couplet by couplet you continue, repeating the words aloud and listening to how they sound., visualizing the pictures they call up in your mind..."

At this point, I want to tell you about Michael Emberley's art. It adds so much to the poetry chosen for this collection. I love the expressions and the watercolor images so full of the spirit of each poem. He fills the space with memorable scenes and perfect characters. A slumbering cat, seemingly oblivious to the two tiny mice trying to skitter past, is tucked up on a green mat. A joyful family enclosed in a hug that assures security and love. An endless train track that twists and curves to the sing-song lyrics of the chosen poem. There is so much there to see, and it improves understanding and boosts enjoyment.

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