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Saturday, November 23, 2013

follow follow: a Book of Reverso Poems, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2013. $18.00 ages 8 and up

"That ridiculous loser!
I am not
a slowpoke.
Though I may be
the smallest bit distracted.
I can't be
I've got rabbit feet to
take me to the finish line."

In a note About Reversos in the back matter of this jaw-dropping new book of poetry, Marilyn Singer tells her audience: "Trust me -it's not easy,". My immediate thought was: 'now there's an understatement if I ever heard one!'

In a poetic form that she created for her outstanding book Mirror Mirror (Dutton, 2010), Ms.Singer has done it again. She uses familiar (I hope), traditional tales and designs poems that present opposing points of view. The kicker is that the two poems face each other on a single page spread. The one on the left side reads from top to bottom; the poem on the facing side of the midline uses the exact same words but reverses them, taking the last line and putting it at the top and writing it again with subtle changes in punctuation.

 I wish I could just post one of them to have you wrap your brain around how truly inventive and 'not easy' it really is! Look at the poem at the top of this post, write it down from bottom to top, or just read it that way and you get some small idea of the magic that is in the words, and the form. Two different characters with entirely opposite points of view concerning the race, and they use the SAME WORDS! Mind-boggling!

There are twelve tales and each one has an appended note:

Three pigs versus one big, bad wolf. The first pig builds a house of straw, the second a house of sticks. The wolf blows down the houses and eats the pigs. The last pig builds his house of sturdy bricks. When the wolf decides to come down the chimney, his goose is cooked."

Each is a delight to read, and will enchant and tease the reader's brain. Most of the stories will be very familiar. Readers will benefit from the short descriptions of each in the back matter. They might even want to follow-up with a thorough reading of the original tale. What a celebration of the written word and the power of poetry to tell a story in a unique and intriguing new way!

I love the jewel-tone colors in Josee Maase's acrylic on bristol sheet artwork. Each piece faces the mirrored poems and provides a two-sided image that is divided by a midline, just as the poems are shown on their page. Tiny spot paintings add detail to the poetry page, totally in keeping with the tale being shared. Textured and detailed, they add the perfect touch!

The introductory and closing poems provide a perfect support for the collection. Clever, and oh, so inspiring for those wanting to try their hand at a new form of poetry.

Imagine                   Upended
fairy tales                fairy tales?
upended.                  Imagine!



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