Thursday, April 02, 2009

TLA poet Betsy Franco: Curious Cats

Today is the day for the fifth annual Poetry Round Up at the annual convention of the Texas Library Association. This year, we’re featuring Georgia Heard, Betsy Franco, J. Patrick Lewis, Hope Anita Smith, and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. I’ll be posting reviews of each of their new books bit by bit. Can you believe they ALL have new poetry books coming out this year? That’s a good sign!

Today I’m featuring the highly energetic Betsy Franco. She has had an impressive array of new books coming out over the last several years. This time, I’d like to focus on A Curious Collection of Cats, illustrated by Michael Wertz, an amazing debut for this illustrator-to-watch.

A Curious Collection of Cats features shape or concrete or visual poems that arrange the words in ways that suggest the poem’s subject. In this case, the subject is cats, in all their glory and foibles. I love how Franco grounds the poems in tiny details that ring true—like using cat names that are clearly based in personal history, such as Q-Tip, Prickles, Miss Book, Suki, and Binky. Kids will love that she included hairballs and cat pee, too, of course. :-)

Each page + poem is almost a stand alone mini-poster. Wertz’s art and design make the poems pop and his very graphic approach suggests retro 1960’s silk screen art in drenched pinks, blues, purples, and oranges.

In this case, however, I would argue that the poems also work on their own independently. Franco includes haiku, limericks, free verse, and rhyme—an impressive variety of poetic forms injected into the concrete poem context. The poetry is beautifully amplified and visualized by the amazing art—graphic and bold—showcasing both the poem and the cat attributes contained in the poem.

The poems even lend themselves to being read aloud—which is not always true of concrete poetry—and kids will surely want to share their own cat stories, or cut out cat shapes or create simple cat puppets to manipulate and accompany the reading aloud.

Here’s a fun sample poem that’s perfect for e-sharing:

by Betsy Franco


vpq#peifgu3gy TO IT!

Franco, Betsy. 2009. A Curious Collection of Cats. Ill. by Michael Wertz. San Francisco, CA: Tricycle Press.

Pair this with Joan Bransfield Graham’s collections of shape or concrete poetry, also illustrated in bold, graphic art:
Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1994. Splish Splash. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1999. Flicker Flash. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

And for the cat lover, here are more cat poem collections:

Poetry Books about Cats
Crawley, Dave. 2005. Cat Poems. Honesdale, PaA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Creech, Sharon. 2008. Hate that Cat. New York: HarperCollins.
Lach, William. Ed. 1999. Curious Cats: in Art and Poetry for Children. 1999. New York: Atheneum Books.
Demi, comp. 1994. In the Eyes of the Cat: Japanese Poetry for All Seasons. Translated by Tze-Si Huang. New York: Henry Holt.
Farjeon, Eleanor. 1996. Cats Sleep Anywhere. New York: HarperCollins.
Field, Eugene. 1990. The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat. New York: Philomel.
Florian, Douglas. 2003. Bow Wow Meow Meow: It’s Rhyming Cats and Dogs. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
Ghigna, Charles. 1992. Good Cats/Bad Cats. Ill. by David Catrow. New York: Hyperion.
Grindol, Diane. 2008. Catku: Cat Haiku Poems. CreateSpace.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1981. I am the Cat. New York: HarperCollins.
Isaacs, Anne. 1998. Cat up a Tree. Ill. by Stephen Mackey. New York: Dutton.
Kirk, Daniel. 2007. Cat Power. New York: Hyperion.
Kuskin, Karla. 2005. Toots the Cat. New York: Henry Holt.
Lear, Edward. 2007. The Owl and the Pussycat. Toronto: Kids Can Press. (There are MANY picture book versions of this poem.)
Leopold, Nikki Clark. 2002. K is for Kitten. New York: Putnam.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1994. Cat Poems. Ill. by Trina Schart Hyman. New York: Dutton.
Phinn, Gervase. 2002. Our Cat Cuddles. Swindon: Child’s Play.
Prelutsky, Jack. 2004. If Not for the Cat: Haiku. New York: Greenwillow.
Shertle, Alice. 1999. I am the Cat. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Meow Ruff. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Tiller, Ruth. 1995. Cats Vanish Slowly. Atlanta: Peachtree.
Turner, Nancy Byrd. 2000. When it Rained Cats and Dogs. Marshfield Hills, MA: Meadow Geese Press.
Walsh, Caroline. 1996. The Little Book of Cats. New York: Kingfisher.
Yolen, Jane. 1993. Raining Cats and Dogs. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.

FYI: Betsy was a delightful presenter today and our TLA poetry panel was a big success with over 100 people in the audience, by my count. Betsy shared cat poems and math poems and selections from her new cumulative "pond" poem-- all well received and delivered with spirit and humor! Thank you, Betsy (and Pat, and Tracie, and Georgia, and Hope Anita)! More details to come...

Image credit:


Linda said...

Sylvia, thank you for the wonderful themed list of poetry collections. You are a teacher's dream blogger! I love all of the activities too. I share them with teachers at my school.
I'm chairing a poetry contest for National Poetry Month. We have a special way to celebrate the winner. I'll blog about that later this month. I can't wait to get Betsy Franco's Curious Cats!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

wonderful! I am looking for this book now.

LibraryFan07 said...

I just got back from TLA. What a treat and pleasure it was to experience the Poetry Round-up for the first time. I loved hearing and meeting each of the poets you hosted on the panel. I especially loved Betsy's cat collection, as I am a fellow cat lover. Thank you for this list. Many of these I am familiar with, and there are some I am not. Thanks for always posting your amazing lists. They are so, so helpful.

And one more cat poem book I love and have reviewed on my blog is WHEN GORILLA GOES WALKING, by NIKKI GRIMES. Check it out, and maybe add it to your list.