Going with today’s theme, I’m mostly imitating each book’s own voice/style for my commentary. And sometimes I’ll just let them speak for themselves.
Marilyn Nelson. Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World. Illus. Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial Books, 2009.
THE PAWNSHOP BLUES
A poem by Nerija
(Italicized phrases are direct quotes from the book)
In that great age of swing, we made people forget –
Forget for one night the spreading prairie fires of war.
Forget for a moment the unsleeping eye of Jim Crow.
To the dancing, swaying, smiling audiences, We’re all stars.
The Apollo, the Royal, the Regal, and the Cotton Club.
Tonight’s gig, a New Orleans pawnshop…quite the wild hub.
Most wax nostalgic, some even sensual –
Listen, there goes Lucille Dixon’s old bass:
I was the great love of my Sweetheart’s life.
(Now his Sweetheart’s long married and gone) – I’m a sorry old bass.
(He still hopes there’s a day when new) – arms will encircle my neck,
(Someone new) – press her warm length to my back and pluck notes from my gut with her fingers’ caress.
If we could show you what it was like, those days, here’s what you’d see:
Alternate scenes of dancing and marching, laughing and grim-faced
People, with faces now clear, now hazy (like old, faded photos).
Scenes in wild color, dusty sepia, washed-out grays.
And if we could follow this time-traveling writer, this listener-in
On our pawnshop blues, our hopes, that night in 2005,
For better days… would we see why she looked at us, sad,
Like she knew something? She left us with only an ominous vibe.*
* How Nelson ends her Author’s Note:
The night passes. History comes alive. Just before dawn, the instruments find a riff, a groove, a vamp they keep repeating. We leave them as the sun rises and Hurricane Katrina arrives.
. . . . .
Marije and Ronald Tolman. The Tree House. Honesdale, PA: Lemniscaat, 2009 (first U.S. ed. 2010).
A polar bear rides a whale to a treehouse in the middle of the ocean.
I think my random-meter just broke.
. . . . .
Sheldon Oberman. The Wind that Wanted to Rest. Illus. Neil Waldman. Afterword by Peninnah Schram. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2012.
A tired wind wandered the world, seeking a place to rest. He tried among trees, but they turned him away. Neither mountain, nor townsfolk would welcome him. Exhausted and hurt, the wind grew into a storm. Would anyone show him some compassion?
Interesting info from Peninnah Schram’s Afterword:
- Oberman saw even written stories as part of oral tradition; you get this sense in The Wind that Wanted to Rest, in the way it sounds in your head as you read – the alliteration, for instance. The illustrations, too. When characters are drawn particularly well, they’re no longer just 2D images – the wind’s face on each page made me smile, or feel sad, or even want to cry.
- The book was published after the author’s death in 2004. His original subtitle was “A Jewish Folktale from Soviet Russia,” though it’s not really clear if that’s where this specific tale originated.
- Schram says:
The personification of the wind is a motif that appears in Jewish folktales as well as in folktales from Lithuania [ 😀 ], a country that borders Russia. In fact, this motif is found in the myths and folktales of many cultures. Wind gods and goddesses appear in the writings of Aesop and Ovid and in the ancient myths of people as far apart as the Celts and Maya.
. . . . .
Lee Wardlaw. Won Ton: a Cat Tale Told in Haiku. Illus. Eugene Yelchin. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2011.
The tale’s told in senryu –
Same form, different themes.
Is the focus of haiku.
So says author’s note.
Since this kitty speaks
It is senryu.
I guess “haiku” is
A more recognizable
Term for most readers.
Now it’s Won Ton’s turn: