Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions

Overview

What superstitions do you follow?
In this collection of original poems, accomplished poet Janet S. Wong explores seventeen superstitions, some common, others that are less known, and delves into their origins as well as their lore. Rich, full-color illustrations by Julie Paschkis enhance each poem.
The result from this award-winning team is sure to intrigue young readers and make them think again about things ...

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Overview

What superstitions do you follow?
In this collection of original poems, accomplished poet Janet S. Wong explores seventeen superstitions, some common, others that are less known, and delves into their origins as well as their lore. Rich, full-color illustrations by Julie Paschkis enhance each poem.
The result from this award-winning team is sure to intrigue young readers and make them think again about things they often do, like opening an umbrella, walking under a ladder, or putting on a hat!

A collection of seventeen original poems about superstitions, including walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, and knocking on wood. Includes notes about the superstitions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The team behind Night Garden pair up again for Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions by Janet S. Wong, illus. by Julie Paschkis. A few poems may require reading the explanation of the superstition first, but the best dig into the spirit of the superstitions, as in "Umbrellas": "The ghost of my grandfather came by for an apple/ and a cup of coffee, once./ If I knew he would come to visit again,/ I would open both our umbrellas now and wait-/ and we would walk in this rain." The real star is Paschkis's illustrations, which conjure a dreamlike world. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Why should you never open an umbrella inside the house? You shouldn't because, according to folklore, ghosts hide under umbrellas. In this collection of seventeen original poems, the author depicts well-known as well as more obscure superstitions in a light-hearted way. From black cats to four-leaf clovers, from an itchy ear to the reason people say "knock on wood," the author gives young readers an appreciation for symbols of good and bad luck. Following the main text, the author includes more background about each of the superstitions she discusses in her poems. The illustrator's full-color folk art motifs, set off by the use of lively background borders, give the book a medieval and yet timeless, magical feel to inspire the reader's imagination. The collection pairs well with Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and an NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts, which was written and illustrated by the same award-winning team. 2003, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, Ages 7 to 10.
— Valerie O. Patterson
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Itchy ears, broken mirrors, and hats worn backward join wood spirits, ghosts, and of course black cats in this imaginative exploration of common and lesser-known superstitions. The shapely poems are infused with fey intimations in keeping with the collection's theme: "It is said/salt is magic. The pure kind, sea crystals./Spilled salt is magic flung wild." Some selections are haunting, and some humorous, as in this glimpse of a vampire's downfall: "All you bloodsuckers,/this is your last chance:/I am one bite/away-/from a hunk/of Mother's famous garlic chunk chicken." Paschkis creates an exquisite backdrop for the verses. Presented on a panoramic spread, each poem and facing watercolor scene have matching frames, anchoring them as reflections of one another. Some of the borders are abstract designs, but others are suggestive of elements in the verses. For example, "Potatoes" is contained inside a lumpy oval. Adept at both storytelling and design, the illustrator places the text and picture blocks against a wonderful montage of images in tones of a single color. Children of varied ethnicities and time periods are cast in fanciful folk-art scenes. Humor, satire, subplots, historic references, and decorative and surreal elements abound in artful profusion. There is much to ponder in both words and pictures. Some of the children depicted suggest a young audience, but the mixed poetic/visual brew is sophisticated. The author includes brief comments about the featured superstitions and a note reflecting on her personal experience in this area.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
So, does wearing one's hat backwards bring good luck or bad? What, if anything, do itchy ears, or a broken mirror, portend? In 17 short poems, alphabetically arranged, Wong ruminates lightheartedly on superstitions both common and less well-known, from that ominous black cat or the supposed effects of garlic-"All you bloodsuckers / this is your last chance: / I am one bite / away- / from a hunk / of Mother's famous garlic chunk chicken"-to the spirits that purportedly dwell in trees and umbrellas. Paschkis frames each poem, and a playful, stylized illustration opposite, with swirling monochrome borders made of mirror-image motifs; the effect is both eye-filling and a touch mystical. Wong gets into the spirit of things by slipping in a newly minted superstition-"Stand bareheaded in the rain / to cure a baldness of the brain"-then closing with a spread of tongue-in-cheek commentary and a personal source note. Poet and illustrator both capture just the right tone to keep young readers from taking the topic too seriously-knock on wood. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689855122
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 7/22/2003
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.84 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet S. Wong is the author of more than a dozen picture books and poetry collections. Her work includes Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions, both illustrated by Julie Paschkis, as well as Grump, a Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Book, illustrated by John Wallace. Janet lives with her family in Medina, Washington.

Julie Paschkis is the illustrator of several award-winning books, including Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams by Janet S. Wong, which was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; Happy Adoption Day! by John McCutcheon; and Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert. She lives in Seattle Washington. Visit Julie's Web site at www.juliepaschkis.com.

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Table of Contents

Cat 1
Clover 3
Ears 5
Garlic 7
Hair 9
Hat 11
Horseshoe 13
Key 15
Ladder 17
Ladybug 19
Mirror 21
Potatoes 23
Rooster 25
Salt 27
Thirteen 29
Umbrellas 31
Wood 33
About the Superstitions 34
Author's Note 36
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