Saturday, April 25, 2009

Color poetry from Mexico/South Africa

Just a month ago I was in Bologna, soaking up my first Book Fair and looking for poetry gems from around the world. And I struck gold with the White Ravens list produced by the International Youth Library. I posted about it in my March 27 entry, “Poetry from around the world.” I found Jorge Luján’s Oh, los colores! (Oh, the colors!) published in Mexico in 2007. Then when I returned, I learned that Groundwood Books (in Canada) had published a bilingual edition in 2008 with accompanying English translations alongside the Spanish poems. It's now titled Colors! Colores! and was translated by John Oliver Simon and Rebecca Parfitt.

The white background for the cover and each double-page spread is a perfect blank foil for the lyrical, nearly abstract watercolor paintings that suggest as much as they reveal. They’re almost evocative of cave paintings, particularly with the repeated image of the small, angular antelope on every page.

The poems are short, metaphorical or personifying nuggets for 11 colors from beige to blue, pink, yellow, green, orange, red, brown, violet, black, ending with white. Here’s the first one.

by the tide,
fell asleep on the sand.

El beige
se durmió en la arena
de tanto que lo arrulla
la marea.

Luján, Jorge. 2008. Colors! Colores! Translated by John Oliver Simon and Rebecca Parfitt. Ill. by Piet Grobler. Toronto: Groundwood.

Jorge Luján and Piet Grobler are two of their countries’ best-known creators of children’s books, hailing from Mexico and South Africa, respectively. We have so many talented authors, illustrators, and poets here in the U.S., it's easy to forget that other countries also have their own rich body of literature and notable book creators. I was not familiar with Luján and Grobler until seeing this book at the fair, but I’m a fan now!

For more poetry about color and colors, look for:
Adoff, Arnold. 1982. All the Colors of the Race. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Adoff, Arnold. 1973. Black is Brown is Tan. New York: Harper & Row.
Iyengar, Malathi Michelle. 2009. Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown. Illus. by Jamel Akib. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.
Mora, Pat. 1996. Confetti: Poems for Children. New York: Lee & Low.
O’Neill, Mary. 1989. Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color. New York: Doubleday.
Orozco, Jose-Luis, comp. 1994. De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children. New York: Dutton.
Sidman, Joyce. 2009. Red Sings From Treetops; A Year in Colors. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Yolen, Jane. 2000. Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.

Image credit:

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

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