Poetry is really meant to be heard. Of course poems can be read silently, but it is not until the words are said aloud that the full effect can be appreciated. Karla Kuskin recently read from a selection of her poems, providing all of us pleasure and enjoyment.
Karla has more than 50 books of poetry and prose to her credit. Her biggest problem, she said is to stop thinking and writing everything in verse. That so many of her poetry books are still in print and several recently reissued is a real tribute. Her very first book, Roar and More, created while she was in college, was reissued in 1990. The simple text visually portrays animal sounds-even if you couldn't read, the typeface and design would convey the message. (HarperCollins, Ages 3 to 6, $14.89 and $4.95). Also recently reissued with expanded text (the counting now goes to ten instead of eight) and new art by Reg Cartwright is her poem James in the Rain (1995, S&S, Ages 4 to 7, $15.00). Karla wrote it on a typewriter in the backseat of her car during a rain storm while escaping from a practice session by her ex-husband, an oboe player.
Even though she was trained as a graphic artist, many of her books have been illustrated by others. The drawings and words in The Philharmonic Gets Dressed show the musicians bathing, dressing, traveling and arranging themselves on stage-all leading up to the final moment when the maestro's baton falls and the concert begins. The art by Marc Simont is perfectly matched to the words. (1982, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 8, $14.95 and $4.95) In A Great Miracle Happened There: A Chanukah Story, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, the art reinforces the story and feelings created by the words. According to our reviewer, Judy Katsh, "With simplicity and honesty, award winning poet Karla Kuskin allows the history and traditions accompanying the Chanukah celebration to be revealed to a young Jewish family and their non-Jewish guest. The story of Chanukah is one of faith, courage, and victory. Kuskin presents these themes in such a way as to inspire not only sympathetic feelings, but thoughtful questioning." (1993, HarperCollins, Ages 5 to 8, $15.00 and $5.95).
In summary, she told her audience that humor and rhyme drove her early work. Now she plays more with language, but she is still always on the lookout for the punchline.
Conributor: Marilyn Courtot
City Dog will never be the same. This trip to the country is his first time away from the city. Removed from his familiar surroundings, everything seems fresh and new. It's another world-the countryside is wide and open compared to crowded maze of buildings and streets in the city. Written in verse, Kuskin's poetic text is wonderful to read aloud, and her pictures are filled with the greens and blues found in a languid country setting. 1998 (orig. 1994), Clarion Books, Ages 3 to 8, $5.95. Reviewer: Sheree van Vreede
Illustrated by Renee Flower
In the hollow of the conch shell, one hears the ebb and flow of the ocean, waves of color and life and sound. In a powerful extended metaphor, this poem's tin can stands in for the shell, and evokes al the senses of the city. The pages jump with vibrancy and raw momentum. The text is almost background music for the pictures, which are worth at least a thousand words. Every building, car, boy, and bicycle makes its presence known even within the blur and flurry, reminding the reader to put an ear to the tin can-and listen to the symphony of the city. 1994, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 8, $15.00 and $14.89. Reviewer: Jessy Deutsch
A Great Miracle Happened There: A Chanukah Story
Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
With simplicity and honesty, poet Karla Kuskin allows the history and traditions accompanying the Chanukah celebration to be revealed to a young Jewish family and their non-Jewish guest. The story of Chanukah is one of faith, courage in the face of insurmountable odds, and victory. Kuskin presents these themes in such a way as to inspire not only sympathetic feelings, but thoughtful questioning and debate as well. 1993, HarperCollins, Ages 5 to 8, $15.00 and $5.95. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
Soap Soup: And Other Verses
Every poem is a discovery, for the poet who creates and for the reader who appreciates. Each time you recite one, you find something new, something funny, or something profound--even in the simplest ones for the youngest readers. Karla Kuskin is a star of this form. In her "I Can Read Book," Soap Soup, for example, the words are simple but the thoughts are those children think about--like why their elbows bend, or "If my eyes were where my nose is / I would blink to smell the roses." Ms. Kuskin is also the illustrator. 1992, Harper, Ages 4 to 7, $14.95 and $3.50. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
The Upstairs Cat
Illustrated by Howard Fine
Upstairs cat and downstairs cat are quite different creatures who refuse to recognize the similarities they do share. Each zealously guards her domain and there is never a truce in the upstairs/downstairs battle. This is a plea for peace written in clever verse. 1997, Clarion, Ages 5 up, $15.00. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford
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