Call Me Marianne

Call Me Marianne

by Jen Bryant, David Johnson
     
 
"Are you a scientist?" I ask.

Marianne stops writing and looks up. "No, I'm not a scientist -- I'm a poet."

"Oh," I reply. I've never met a poet before. "What, exactly, does a poet do?" I ask her.

"For me, being a poet begins with watching."

On a trip to the zoo, young Jonathan returns a lost hat to Marianne, a woman who wears all black and

Overview

"Are you a scientist?" I ask.

Marianne stops writing and looks up. "No, I'm not a scientist -- I'm a poet."

"Oh," I reply. I've never met a poet before. "What, exactly, does a poet do?" I ask her.

"For me, being a poet begins with watching."

On a trip to the zoo, young Jonathan returns a lost hat to Marianne, a woman who wears all black and scribbles notes in a little book. When Marianne invites him to tour the zoo with her, Jonathan makes a new friend and learns that he too can write poetry.

With lighthearted illustrations and a poetically told story, this picture book about poet Marianne Moore offers readers a glimpse of the writing process and encourages them to become writers too.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bryant (The Trial) introduces Marianne Moore, the mid-20th-century poet, via her encounter with Jonathan, a New York city boy, who rescues the woman's trademark tri-cornered hat on the way to a lizard exhibit at the zoo. Johnson's (On Sand Island) watercolor compositions underscore narrator Jonathan's perceptions of both Moore and the animals he sees. Having exchanged names, the two look at the lizards; Moore scribbles notes, and the boy asks about her occupation: "What, exactly, does a poet do?" For Moore's answer, Johnson zooms in on the poet's face, framed by her extraordinary hat. Strands of silvery hair fly about her ears, and her lined features are set in thought. "For me," she says, "being a poet begins/ with watching." She describes her methods and shows him drafts of poems in her notebook. "Does it take a long time?" he asks. "This one took me nearly a year!" she says, then shows him another. "But this one took me only a few hours./ Every poem is different-just like those lizards." In thanks for her hat, Moore gives the boy a notebook and whispers, "You could write poetry." Bryant conveys a glimpse of the creative process in language young readers can grasp. Johnson's artwork, a little like the poetry of Moore herself, is formal, muted in color yet always lively; his watercolors capture the animals as capably as the human interactions. Ages 6-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Young Jonathan describes an inspirational visit to the zoo, especially to see the newly arrived exotic lizards. What makes this more than an account of his responses to the creatures he sees at the zoo is his encounter with an unusual woman dressed in black. After he retrieves her blown-away three-cornered hat, they experience the lizards and other animals together. She tells him that she is a poet, writing constantly in her notebook; then she tries to explain to him how she works. She gives him a notebook of his own, encouraging him to begin watching and writing as she does. Recognizing the woman as Marianne Moore is not as important as the message about poetry that Jonathan learns. The double-page scenes are textured to produce a sense of "once-upon-a-time." In this environment, Johnson's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations define Jonathan, the animals, Moore, and bits of zoo architecture with sensitive naturalism. Showing the animals in action from different points of view adds to the appeal. The final scene of Jonathan sitting on a bench, pencil and notebook ready, suggests the positive influence of the poet. A note fills in the factual information behind the fictional story. 2006, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Ages 5 to 9.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Bryant has created a fictional chance encounter between a boy and an elderly Marianne Moore as they ride a Brooklyn bus to the zoo in the 1940s. While Moore is the focus of the story, Jonathan is the narrator, and his words have a poetic quality. The poet's hat looks like "a piece of black cloth or a shingle that's blown off a roof" and the words she has written in her journal "line up in rows like obedient soldiers." Moore points out, "I see that you and I think alike," a statement that refers to more than just the fact that they both chose the same Saturday destination. Jonathan asks, "What, exactly, does a poet do?" and Moore explains that her work begins by watching, writing words down, and rearranging them to sound just right. While this description may be accurate, children may not understand exactly what it means. The mottled and muted watercolor illustrations lend a soft, nostalgic feel to the book and complement the story's quiet tone. While this title may be helpful to introduce children to the process of poetry and, to a lesser degree, the poet, this tale is too slight and subdued to appeal to a general audience.-Carol L. MacKay, Camrose Public Library, Alberta, Canada Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Brooklyn lad finds common ground with an oddly dressed lady in this fictional but not unlikely zoo encounter. Jonathan loves to watch the animals, and so does the woman in the black cape and tri-cornered hat; standing side by side in the reptile house, they introduce themselves: "My name is Miss Moore, but you can call me Marianne." And later: "No, I'm not a scientist-I'm a poet." Unsure just what a "poet" does, Jonathan accompanies her around the zoo as she explains how she puts down thoughts and observations in her notebook, tries to fit them together like puzzle pieces, and, with luck and patience, sometimes makes them into a poem. Shifting point of view from within the cages and out, Johnson supplies accurately drawn, very softly tinted animal and human figures, capturing both Jonathan's curiosity and the Moore's quirky, dignified grandeur. In the end, she leaves him with both a blank notebook and the assurance of future meetings-a double promise that young readers and writers may be moved to take her up on. Though a sample of poetry would have made a better sendoff than Bryant's biographical afterword, this does provide a tantalizing glimpse into one writer's creative process. (Picture book. 7-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802852427
Publisher:
Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
02/28/2006
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

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