Illustrator: Masha D'yans
Editors: Teachers and Writers Collaborative
Publisher: Universe Publishing (Rizzoli)
Pub. Date: September 4, 2012
I am so pleased to be able to tell you today about a very unique poetry book.
The Teachers & Writers Collaborative, an organization that helps children develop their creative writing skills, led a series of workshops in public schools and libraries across New York City. The children who participated worked on writing poems about what it's like to live in The Big Apple. The resulting poems, "stacks of poems on hundreds of loose leaf pages" as adapter Melanie Maria Gooreaux described them in the introduction, were collected and edited to create one big poem. The result is the marvelous A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple.
The overall feeling of A Poem as Big as New York City is joyous. It is clear that the authors love their city. A smiling, curious anthropomorphous Poem is the thread that holds the poem's story together. In the image below you can see the "Poem" illustrated as a graphic character formed out of words taken from the poem itself.
The Poem travels through the five boroughs of the city, narrating its journey, sometimes in the third person,
The poem walked by the East River and reached upand sometimes in the first person,
to touch a pink-and-white striped sky.
It passed by the Chrysler Building,
and it looked like a wealthy woman
who just couldn't hide her jewels.
I jumped inside a parking meterbut always celebrating the uniqueness of the city: the sounds, sights, smells and even the taste.
and heard the soul of New York City
crunching like quarters.
The journey of the Poem somehow manages to be both magical and realistic, individual and collective. It celebrates the diversity of New York City's people, places and experiences. There's an exhilarating sense of movement throughout the lines as the reader is carried along with the Poem through the streets, underground and above the skyscrapers. I love the final image of the Poem in front of the New York Public Library. The Poem is reading a book, the cover of which is a diverse group of faces. It is as if one can never get enough; instead of being exhausted by the action and excitement, the Poem (and the reader) just wants more.
Masha D'yans's beautiful watercolor illustrations are both ethereal and vibrant, if that is possible, and effectively capture the jubliant quality of the poem. It is hard not to smile as we see the Poem lounge on the grass of Central Park, swing through the sky on the suspension lines of Brooklyn Bridge, and munch on a black and white cookie during a shopping trip. How she managed to make two black circles look like so inquisitive is a feat in and of itself.
The perfect final touch is the credit page at the end of the book in which the names of participating libraries and school are arranged to resemble a cityscape, as if to remind us that the children are what make up the the city.
I know this book will be loved by New York City residents and I hope it finds an audience beyond that because it's a great ambassador for the city.
Visit the Teachers & Writers Collaborative website to learn about their writing workshops and programs.
Read other reviews at Great Kid Books, Where the Best Books Are, and NC Teacher Stuff,
Visit the illustrator's website (you can see more artwork from the book here).
Special thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of the book.