Firefly July A year of very short poems

Paul B. Janeczko

Book - 2014

A selection of short American poems dealing with the four seasons and the different weather events and animal patterns that can occur within each.

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Location Call Number   Status
Children's Room j808.81/Janeczko Due May 4, 2024
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press 2014.
Main Author
Paul B. Janeczko (-)
Other Authors
Melissa Sweet, 1956- (illustrator)
First edition 2014.
Physical Description
47 pages : color illustrations ; 30 cm
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall
  • Winter.
  • Spring. Daybreak reminds us / Cid Corman
  • Spring / Raymond Souster
  • The red wheelbarrow / William Carlos Williams
  • The island / Lillian Morrison
  • In passing / Gerald Jonas
  • Water lily / Ralph Fletcher
  • Open-billed / X.J. Kennedy
  • Window / Carl Sandburg
  • Summer. Little orange cat / Charlotte Zolotow
  • Subway rush hour / Langston Hughes
  • A happy meeting / Joyce Sidman
  • Firefly July / J. Patrick Lewis
  • Sandpipers / April Halprin Wayland
  • Bronze Age / Robert Morgan
  • In the field forever / Robert Wallace
  • Sea trade / Patricia Hubbell
  • The moon was but a chin of gold / Emily Dickinson
  • Fall. What is it the wind has lost / Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser
  • Screen door / James Stevenson
  • Headline / Cid Corman
  • In the alley / Alice Schertle
  • Tall city / Susan Nichols Pulsifer
  • The first September breeze fluttered / Liz Rosenberg
  • November night / Adelaide Crapsey
  • Between walls / William Carlos Williams
  • Moonlight / Bruce Balan
  • Winter. Old truck / Cynthia Pederson
  • Fog / Carl Sandburg
  • Uses for fog / Eve Merriam
  • Dust of snow / Robert Frost
  • Snow fence / Ted Kooser
  • The house-wreckers have left the door and a staircase / Charles Reznikoff
  • A wild winter wind / Richard Wright
  • Winter twilight / Anne Porter
  • Night / Herbert Read
  • A welcome mat of moonlight / Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser.
Review by New York Times Review

THE SEASONS OF THE YEAR tell a tale that resonates deep inside us. No matter where you start in the calendar, the passing of the seasons presents a beginning, middle and end that is hard-wired to our emotional metabolism. This applies equally to adults and children. A year is a drama in four acts. With a plot like that, you don't even need a story. The creators of three charming new picture books for children have taken shrewd advantage of the seasons as a framing device. In fact, none of the books do tell a story, but each is capable of sending a child on a vivid, sensate journey through the 12 months of the year. "Secrets of the Seasons: Orbiting the Sun in Our Backyard," by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, is knowledge clothed in whimsy. Using a young girl as her first-person narrator, Zoehfeld has taken on the challenge of explaining to small children how the movements of the Earth around the sun create the seasons. The girl, her best friend, her parents, her little brother, her cat and two talking chickens ramble around a backyard, giddily noting the effects of the changing weather. Every few pages there is a pastel-colored diagram illustrating some complex physical phenomenon in outer space. Aided by the appealing illustrations of Priscilla Lamont, Zoehfeld's soft-touch meteorology lesson succeeds remarkably well. It may take several readings (or hearings) for children to fully grasp these basic operations of the universe, but grasp them they will. And several adults of my acquaintance, deprived of such elementary knowledge at a young age, would find "Secrets of the Seasons" to be an eye-popping revelation. "Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons" is written and illustrated by Jon J Muth. As signaled by the pun in the book's title, it is intended to introduce children to the spare tradition of Japanese haiku poetry. Each of the book's pages features one of Muth's original haikus, grouped in four sections designated by season. Accompanying each haiku is an image of a day in the life of a panda bear named Koo and the boy and girl who are his unlikely human playmates. The illustrations are beautifully rendered by Muth in muted colors, with deft brush strokes that suggest the calligraphy of the Far East. The book also functions as a subtle alphabet primer. In each of the 26 haikus, Muth capitalizes a word beginning with the corresponding letter of the alphabet, so that as the seasons pass the capitalized words appear in alphabetical order from A to Z. Some of Muth's seasonal episodes are tender, some dreamlike, some goofily comic. Some are simply bizarre: In the "0" haiku, the eyes of Koo and his two friends are vacant squares. The haiku explains: too much TV this winter my eyes are square let's go Out and play The essence of haiku is simplicity. Considering this, "Hi, Koo!" has an awful lot going on. It follows the seasons; it teaches the alphabet; it tells happy, sad and cryptic anecdotes about a cute bear with not much personality. A child might be forgiven for wondering what the book is all about. But Muth's exquisite saturated watercolors more than compensate for its slightly muddled intentions. ANTHOLOGIES OF POETRY for young people are never in short supply (I've edited one myself). But "Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems" is a glorious example of the genre. Paul B. Janeczko has selected 36 poetic gems with an expert's ear, matching them ingeniously to the four seasons. As an example, Janeczko has included "Headline," by Cid Corman: A leaf on the doorstep - dont even have to pick it up to know the news. No mention of the season here. But plastered beside the text is a brilliant red maple leaf, instantly infusing Corman's words with autumnal mist and smoke. This marriage of verbal and visual imagery has the effect of making some familiar, even hoary poems suddenly seem utterly new. Hence, Langston Hughes's "Subway Rush Hour" becomes a summer poem, radiating the oppressive heat of underground New York City; Carl Sandburg's "Fog" brings a harsh Chicago winter to frigid life; and William Carlos Williams's ubiquitous "The Red Wheelbarrow" becomes the definitive poem of springtime, glisteningly fresh. The poems are short, accessible and child-friendly, but they are far from unsophisticated. Eve Merriam and Charlotte Zolotow are noted poets for children; Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost are not. And yet each of them, like every other poet in the collection, speaks directly to a child's early experience of the world. And in its pungently evocative presentation, it is easy to imagine the book inspiring a child to create a poem on his or her own. Janeczko has a brilliant accomplice in his act of literary reimagination. This is his illustrator, Melissa Sweet. Sweet's spectacular mixed-media illustrations seem poised to break free from the book's large pages. They are alternately delicate and bold, mistily atmospheric and scorchingly bright. Her touch combines the rigor of a mature artist and the scratchy abandon of a child. Best of all, they illuminate the poetry with genuine wit, intelligence and emotion. They are poems come to life. Name a season of the year and a flood of sense memories fills the mind and swells the heart. A good picture book works the same magic for children. These three authors have used the first device to achieve the second result. The books are completely different in tone and intent. Their only connection is their theme. But all three delight, inspire and, to varying degrees, educate. For children (and their parents), they present an inviting seasonal spread. JOHN LITHGOW, the actor and musician, is the author of nine children's books, most recently "Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [May 11, 2014]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Celebrated poet and anthologist Janeczko has collected 36 very short poems (none is longer than 10 lines) about the seasons. The selections are by both children's poets (Charlotte Zolotow, April Halprin Wayland, J. Patrick Lewis, Eve Merriam, and more) and adult poets (Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Ted Kooser, William Carlos Williams). In their brevity, the poems remind us that less can often be more and that there is art in economy. Every reader or listener will have his or her favorite poem, but some that are outstanding include Gerald Jonas' In Passing, Joyce Sidman's A Happy Meeting, J. Patrick Lewis' Firefly July, April Halprin Wayland's Sandpipers, and Ted Kooser's Snow Fence. Only a few of the poems are universally familiar: William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow, Carl Sandburg's Fog, and arguably Robert Frost's Dust of Snow. For young children, most of the others will be agreeable surprises, and each entry offers a happy encounter with words put beautifully together. Caldecott Honor Book artist Sweet's pictures are, in a word, gorgeous. Executed in watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media, they capture and expand the spirit and sensibility of the verses they illustrate to wonderful effect. The harmonious cooperation of words and images provides a memorable reading experience for each season and for the whole year round.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Never more than six or seven lines long-and some are just a few words-each poem in Janeczko's (A Foot in the Mouth) spirited anthology celebrates an aspect of the seasons. Evocative and accessible, they make excellent prompts for classroom poetry exercises. "What is it the wind has lost," ask poets Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, "that she keeps looking for/ under each leaf?" Sweet's (Little Red Writing) artwork is marvelously varied. In some spreads, the animals and people are drafted in thoughtful detail, while in others her line is loopy and spontaneous. Dragonflies and crickets blink with flirtatious cartoon-character eyes in one scene, while fireflies and their haunting light are painted with meditative calm in another. Beach towels are striped in hot colors; fog in a city is rice paper glued over a collage of tall buildings. William Carlos Williams's red wheelbarrow and Carl Sandburg's little cat feet appear along with lesser-known works. Even Langston Hughes's poem about a crowded subway sounds a note of hope: "Mingled/ breath and smell/ so close/ mingled/ black and white/ so near/ no room for fear." Ages 6-9. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 4-Organized by the seasons, beginning with spring, this collection of 36 impeccably chosen short poems demonstrates that significant emotional power can reside in just a few lines. In obvious contrast with such small bites of poetry, the large-format design explodes with bright and expressive watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media collages. Colors and shapes with willowy details expertly blur or bring bits of the images into focus to create a magical sense of place, time, and beauty. The poems range from work by William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes to that of James Stevenson, Joyce Sidman, and Ralph Fletcher. The first verse opens the book with daybreak, and after exploring the whole year, the final selection sends readers off to sleep: "A welcome mat of moonlight/on the floor. Wipe your feet/before getting into bed" (Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser). Every poem evokes a moment, and, combined with its corresponding full-bleed illustration, the season is captured for readers to remember, experience, or anticipate. Any collection will be brighter with the inclusion of this treasure.-Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Very short people attracted by Sweet's child-friendly illustrations (and by the large picture book format) are likely to linger to enjoy the thirty-six excellent poems (grouped by season) showcased on the book's ample spreads, especially when shared with a discerning older reader. As brief as three lines or a dozen words, most of the verses are by familiar poets (Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Ted Kooser), including those known for their children's verse (Alice Schertle, Charlotte Zolotow). Many are simply apt descriptions (a sandpiper's beak seems to be "hemming the ocean" -- April Halprin Wayland) or contrasts (an island is "Wrinkled stone / like an elephant's skin / on which young birches are treading" -- Lillian Morrison). Occasionally, there are subtler suggestions of wry metaphor (Joyce Sidman's "A Happy Meeting" of rain and dust: "Quick, noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud") or deeper meaning. Sweet's expansive mixed-media illustrations -- loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes -- are just detailed enough to clarify meaning without intruding on young imaginations. The names of the seasons appear only as integrated into the art, with "Fall" a particularly clever construction of disguised letters in a spread that's only partly representational. A fine addition to the seasonal poetry shelf. joanna rudge long(c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Choosing from works spanning three centuries, Janeczko artfully arranges 36 elegant poems among the four seasons. With each poem's relationship to its season often subtle or tangential, Janeczko avoids the trite repetition flawing some seasonal poetry collections. The initial poem, by Cid Corman for "Spring," lauds a dawn scene: "Daybreak reminds us / the hills have arrived just in / time to celebrate." Emily Dickinson's poem shimmers in the "Summer" section: "The Moon was but a Chin of Gold / A Night or two ago / And now she turns Her perfect Face / Upon the World below." (The moon's presence shines throughout, in eight poems.) Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, whose published 2003 collaboration is represented by two poems, offer this autumnal musing: "What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?" The winter poems are snowy, but they are also laced with fog; nature scenes alternate with depictions of a subway, a rusting truck, harbor boats and more. Sweet's effervescent mixed-media collages include signature elements like graph paper and saturated pinks; the large format engenders some expansive compositions, such as one showing the curve of the Earth near an enormous, smiling full moon. Inventive details abound, too: The last spread shows a child asleep under a crazy quilt that incorporates motifs from all four seasonsa perfect visual ending. Scintillating! (permissions, acknowledgments) (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.