Through 15 poems in an array of formats (sonnet, haiku, free verse), Quattlebaum (The Shine Man) chronicles a family gathering at the beach. The speaker, Jodie, is pictured as a child, but her sensibility seems more akin to that of a self-conscious adolescent-she is by turns wistful, melancholic and preoccupied with her dawning ability to ponder life's bigger meanings. Squeezing herself into a porch rocker meant for a much smaller person, Jodie thinks, "This chair has rocked since 1884./ Rocked from child to child,/ through children, grandchildren, more and more./ Two years ago it fit just right./ Rock-rock, rock-rock." She spots cousin Hank sitting on a piece of driftwood in a moment of sad reverie and knowingly observes that the boy's long-absent father is "a voice on the phone now./ He's a voice once a week/ saying, `How's the big guy?' " Shine's (Loon Summer) illustrations, watercolors with paper collage, underscore the poems' oddly muted mood. A delicate luminosity radiates from her spreads, and she capably conveys the ever-changing nature of water and light at the shoreline. But there's a curious emotional stillness to her renderings, even when the family assembles for a gathering as pleasant as a pancake breakfast. Children who have experienced the happy-go-lucky chaos of a real family reunion may wonder where all the action is. All ages. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Family reunions may seem old fashioned but on the very first page, young Jodie is talking to her grandmother on a cordless phone, making arrangements for that special week in June. The entire visit is then recalled in a collection of poems. There are some mixed emotions"what will we do for one whole week?"and the memory of the tiny rocker on the porch that"Two years ago it fit just right, rock-rock, rock-rock, And now it's tight." There are Grandpa's pancakes, a dog that barks at clouds, a cousin's glass harp, and nighttime storytelling when each grown-up becomes a kid. Mary Quattlebaum paints delicate pictures with her wordsfireflies as "crumbs of light," fog that "cottons everything." The watercolor illustrations are as soft and comforting as an old quilt, spare and yet full of feeling. A perfect book for class or family reading, especially to inspire poetry as a form of journal writing. 2004, Eerdmans Books, Ages 4 up.
Gr 2-5-A young girl leaves her urban home and joins her extended family for a week at the seashore. Through 15 poems, readers witness the relatives sharing meals, walking on the beach, watching clouds, and strolling to church on Sunday morning. There is an understated chronology of events, but, like lazy summer days, the poems quietly roll into one another. The rhythms and rhymes in many of the selections lend an easy tone to the text. Quattlebaum also experiments with different poetic forms, and it is in a haiku celebrating lightning bugs and a free verse describing Nana's preparations for church that her writing seems the most natural. Shine's dreamy watercolor and cut-paper collage illustrations perfectly depict the windswept setting and the members of this multicultural family. Gently washed hues portray sunny days on the beach and contemplative times spent beneath an ancient maple. A celebration of families and a seasonal ritual, this book could be used to create a summer display along with similar offerings such as Joyce Carol Thomas's Gingerbread Days (HarperCollins, 1995; o.p.) and Marilyn Singer's Family Reunion (S & S, 1994).-Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.