Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Review: Black Stars in a White Night Sky

Here’s a new name to watch: JonArno Lawson from Toronto. Fellow Canadian Robert Munsch said this about Lawson’s first book of poetry for young people, The Man in the Moon-Fixer’s Mask: “This highly accessible but unusual book of wordplay fun for children brings back to life the long lost oddball spirit of the best of Ogden Nash and Hillaire Belloc.” That spirit continues in Lawson’s latest, Black Stars in a White Night Sky published by Boyds Mills Press this spring. Hazel Rochman at Booklist wrote, “his uproarious collection blends slapstick, puns, parodies, and sheer absurdity with lots of wry ideas.” I agree! This collection of 100+ poems is fun to flip through and full of a range of poems from the serious to the silly. Here are two samples from that spectrum:

Are You Worried?
by JonArno Lawson

Are you worried you’re not
like everyone else?
Your worries will only worsen
when you find
that the path to conformity
is different for each person.

p. 14

He Laughed with a Laugh
by JonArno Lawson

He laughed with a laugh
that he wished was his laugh
but everyone knew it wasn’t.

When he laughed he would ask,
“Does that sound like my laugh?”
And everyone said, “It doesn’t.”

The laugh that he laughed
that wasn’t his laugh went,
“Hardy har har, guffaw!”

The laugh that he laughed
that he wished wasn’t his went,
“Hruck, sniffle-hick, hee-haw!”

p. 107

Black Stars in a White Night Sky was first published by Pedlar Press in Toronto in 2006, and received the 2007 Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. I’m so glad to see it cross the border for kids in the U.S., too. Black and white illustrations by Sherwin Tija have a graphic/comic sensibility and add to the appeal of the collection to middle grade and middle school readers. And I love the “small-type notes for those with excellent eyesight” at the back of the book featuring fascinating notes on the backstories for many of the poems. For fans of X. J. Kennedy, David McCord or J. Patrick Lewis, here’s another smart poet whose language play and poetic versatility are sure to please.

Now I’m on the lookout for two other new 2008 releases by JonArno Lawson:
*Inside Out: Children’s Poets Discuss Their Work (published by Walker Books in the UK)
*Voweller's Bestiary: From Aardvark to Guineafowl (illustrated by the poet and published by Porcupine's Quill, a Canadian literary press)

More Poetry Friday fun can be found at A Year of Reading.

Picture credits:;


Mary Lee said...

What are the chances that the same book would be reviewed twice in the same Poetry Friday! Makes me think I need to take a look at this one! Thanks for sharing.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Cool! Thanks again for hosting this week's round up-- it's quite an undertaking!

Jamie said...

That is quite a coincidence - but it's such a fun book! And Hi!

Sylvia Vardell said...

I know, what are the odds? Hi to you, too, Jamie!