Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buttercup Poems for Ice Cream Day

Today is National Ice Cream Day, an unofficial day to celebrate summer with ice cream. In 1846, the hand-cranked ice cream churn was invented and ice cream cones first appeared at the St. Louis World Exposition in 1904. In honor of the occasion, I’d like to feature a brand new poetry picture book from Canada from the cow’s perspective, Buttercup’s Lovely Day, by Carolyn Beck (Orca, 2008). (Cow – milk – ice cream, get it?)

From the lilting end pages at the beginning with bees buzzing across a buttercup yellow sky and ending with stars twinkling across a deep blue one, this poetry collection is a gem. There are doublepage spreads for each poem with a shifting focus from a closeup on the cow to more pastoral landscape cow-scenes. There are 14 poems set from day to dusk-- with pages darkening from beginning to end-- a kind of lullaby of the day for the reader or listener.

But the poems are not just lyrical pastorals. This poet is not afraid to acknowledge the “cow pies,” cow dung, and the churning cud of cow life, often with clever and humorous details and wordplay. Beck uses a very effective and natural rhyme and a pleasing arrangement of words on the page. The poems’ structure fits the rhythm of the words and story perfectly and the illustrations by (sister) Andrea Beck offer an engaging complement that maximizes the picture book format. Here’s just one sample poem:

I love the dark.
It creeps up on me

like the rising tide

of a gentle sea.

A puddle of grey,

a drift of murk,

a hush, a twitch,

a shift, a lurk.

The mossy musk

of the darkening creek.

A bloop!

A swoop!

A flit. A squeak.

Beck, Carolyn. 2008. Buttercup’s Lovely Day. Ill. by Andrea Beck. Custer, WA: Orca Book Publishers.

If you remember Alice Schertle’s poetry collection, How Now, Brown Cow? (Browndeer/ Harcourt Brace, 1994), it’s the perfect companion to Buttercup’s Lovely Day. TWO cow poetry collections! Who knew?

Or if you’re looking for more Canadian poetry for kids, look for these comprehensive anthologies:
Til All the Stars Have Fallen: Canadian Poems for Children edited by David Booth (Kids Can Press, 1989)
The New Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada edited by Mary Alice Downie and Barbara Robertson (1984; first published in 1968).

[Thank you, Susan Corapi, for this lovely gift and for helping me learn more about Canadian poetry for kids!]

Join the rest of the Poetry Friday line up hosted by Kelly Fineman today. Thanks, Kelly!

P.S. The brand spankin' new Poet Laureate has just been announced: Kay Ryan.

The new CHILDREN'S Poet Laureate will be announced later this summer. Stay tuned!

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