A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play

Overview

A paean to play from an award-winning poet and a New York Times best-selling illustrator.  The trappings of childhood change from generation to generation, but there are some timeless activities that every kid loves. Marilyn Singer and LeUyen Pham celebrate these universal types of play, from organized games such as hide-and-seek and hopscotch to imaginative play such as making mud soup or turning a stick into a magic wand. Lyrical poems and bold illustrations capture the energy of a group of children in one...

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Overview

A paean to play from an award-winning poet and a New York Times best-selling illustrator.  The trappings of childhood change from generation to generation, but there are some timeless activities that every kid loves. Marilyn Singer and LeUyen Pham celebrate these universal types of play, from organized games such as hide-and-seek and hopscotch to imaginative play such as making mud soup or turning a stick into a magic wand. Lyrical poems and bold illustrations capture the energy of a group of children in one neighborhood as they amuse themselves over the course of a summer day. At a time when childhood obesity rates are soaring and money is tight for many families, here is a book that invites readers to join in the fun of active play with games that cost nothing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
On a hot summer day, children revel in the joys of free outdoor play, with no computer screens or electrical outlets in sight. One poem echoes the rhythm of a jump rope (“In the town/ town/ town/ there are noises all around”), while a girl in a park sees the world turned on its head as she dangles from the monkey bars: “Upside-down houses/ with upside-down stoops./ Upside-down players/ at upside-down hoops.” In a palette dominated by pale yellows, bright greens and blues, and sunset purples, Pham’s grainy mixed-media scenes could take place anytime in the past 50 years, emphasizing the timeless (some might say lost) art of outdoor activity. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick and Pratt Agency. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"A real strength of the collection is its engagement of the imagination. . . . A thrilling integration of verse and image, motivating all to serious fun."—Kirkus , starred review

"From running through sprinklers to blowing bubbles to catching fireflies, this book has 18 short poems about active, imaginative play in summer weather. . . . An appealing book."—School Library Journal

"Fun for sharing and acting out many times over."—Booklist

"This could be effective in an April unit celebrating both spring and National Poetry Month, and it could also give kids some much needed memories of warmth and sunshine during the winter—or even provide them with the impetus to get off the couch and get outside."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Singer captures the inherent exultations of being young and carefree in the outdoors. . . .Well worth the exercise."—Kirkus Online

"Pham's grainy mixed-media scenes could take place anytime in the past 50 years, emphasizing the timeless (some might say lost) art of outdoor activity."—Publishers Weekly

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Boys and girls go outside to enjoy all kinds of outdoor games from morning to night. There is a jolly poem for each activity, from playing ball and racing: "Everything's a blast / when you do it really fast," jacks and bubble-blowing, jumping rope and swinging, to running in the sprinkler, hide-and-seek, hopscotch, and catching fireflies. Each activity is celebrated with joy, an encouragement to youngsters to get out of the house into the great outdoors. Pham creates a festive cast of kids engaging playfully in the various games. The double-page scenes focus on them and such simple props as a splashing sprinkler, an upside down world as seen from the monkey bars, or a spinning basketball over some outstretched hands. There is a clean-cut style to the pencil and ink figures generated digitally that liberates them from the mostly solid colored backgrounds, adding to the energetic projections. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4—From running through sprinklers to blowing bubbles to catching fireflies, this book has 18 short poems about active, imaginative play in summer weather. The first few lines of the title poem give an idea of the simplicity of the rhythmic verses: "A stick is an excellent thing./If you find the perfect one,/it's a scepter for a king…." The accompanying illustration is a line of smiling, stick-wielding children. Loosely structured, the collection begins in the peace of an early morning: "Every summer morning/I'm always the first one/to go outside, to toss my ball,/to lose it in the sun." It ends with a quiet poem about a child and parent stargazing. The attractive, digitally enhanced pictures match the spirit of the verses well but fall a bit short in the way of depth and texture. While not an essential purchase, this is an appealing book.—Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Turning the adage that sticks and stones may break one's bones on its ear, picture-book titans Singer and Pham team up to entice young readers to go where most Generation Xbox angels fear to tread: outside. Here Singer presents the full spectrum of outdoor activities in rhymed poems consummately animated by Pham's vibrant drawings. No matter the diversion--playing with the dog, balancing on the curb, running through a sprinkler, making stone soup with friends--Singer's entreaty to get out and play is unmistakable. While many of the snappy lyrics show off the pleasures of moving--"Everything's a blast / when you do it really fast!"concludes a piece extolling the virtues of running, puddle-jumping and skateboarding--a real strength of the collection is its engagement of the imagination. For example, in the title piece, what an ordinary stick in the hand can become--a royal scepter, pen, magic wand, drumstick--is limited only by its holder's creativity. Pham's evocative artwork heightens the imagination's importance in play, with her digitally colored pencil-and-ink renderings so finely textured that they radiate a warmth as arresting as Ezra Jack Keats'. A thrilling integration of verse and image, motivating all to serious fun. (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)
Pamela Paul
Pham…employs a lightly abstract retro style…well suited to [Singer's] playful poems about old-timey summertime fun.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547124933
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 681,090
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Marilyn Singer


Marilyn Singer is the author of more than ninety books for young poeple, including Tallulah's Tutu and Mirror, Mirror. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her website at www.marilynsinger.net.

LeUyen Pham is a New York Times best-selling illustrator who has created many books for children. She lives with her family in San Francisco, California. You can visit her online at www.leuyenpham.com.

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