"It's typically said of picture books that art and text are inseparable, but the truth of that has rarely been more evident than it is in this introduction to concrete poetry."—Booklist, starred review Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"Looking for the poetry hidden in the visual imagery is the most obvious appeal of this beautiful, innovative book; other pleasures include the splendid flood of onomatopoeia and the stunning design." --Horn Book Horn Book
"Using concrete poetry as a vehicle, Sidman relates a simple story. The verse is compressed and arranged to create elements of the artwork." School Library Journal
Sidman (Song of the Waterboatman) and Berg (Lucky Leprechaun) get playful with typeface and shapes, bucking conventional descriptions and seeking alternatives to voice-bubble dialogue. With smooth curvy lines, chunky letters and friendly animal personalities, their pages exude a warmth uncommon in digitally illustrated books (with the exception of J.otto Siebold's). Events take place in an ordinary backyard under a robin's-egg blue sky, where puffy, transparent white words overlap to form clouds ("plump bright dome of sugary white sky-muffin") and rounded green letters group to fill in a tree ("Each leaf a map of branches each twig a branch of leaves each branch a tree of twigs"). On a lush carpet of "petunia-edged, much-flattened, sturdy-bladed, seed-studded grass," three crows tease a white kitten, while a brown spotted puppy pants, "must hunt/ must find/ catcatcatcat chipmunk!" As the crows' cawing intensifies, the antic dog and cat spy each other across the lawn; the clouds thicken, and vertical lines of pale-blue letters begin dripping down as raindrops. Sheltering under a picnic table with three ladybugs, the kitten and pup learn to like each other. Zesty words, images and design mesh in this springy treat, concluding with a surprise April shower. Ages 5-9. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Set aside some time to fully explore this masterpiece of words and shapesa match made in concrete poetry heaven. The bright, inviting front cover prepares the reader for the treat to come inside this finely crafted, subtly sophisticated, extraordinary example of excellence in the craft of bookmaking. The deceptively simple story line is one of a dog and a cat caught out in a rainstorm seeking shelter together and becoming friends. The shiny black crows are observing the two furry pets approaching each other and "crows love fights ... fur will fly." Every page has a border of grass, which is really green letters spelling out wonderfully lyrical descriptions of "patchwork, rabbit-nibbled, mower-cropped, wind-whispered grass" that flows along under the story which is in itself told with lots of word pictures. The clouds are groupings of words like a "billowing batch of cumulus" in differing shades of whitish blue floating along in the sky. The whole book is about changes and the progression of the day's weather, the relationship of the two animals, and the interactions of the crows and even the lady bugs ("really beetles and not all ladies"). The stupendously clever placement of the letters to create various items is seen in the vertical text coming from the clouds, which are now "dark drenching murk...thunderous." One can "see" the rain as it changes from the "first drop falling" to "stinging ropes of water." The picnic table under which the animals seek a dry spot is also made of words, as is the great tree that is seen throughout the story, which is made up of green words for the canopy and brown words for its trunk. Because the visual impact is so impressive, mere words areinadequate to describe this dazzling experience of concrete poetry. Plan to read it again and again.
Children's Literature - Sheilah Egan
Gr 2-4-Using concrete poetry as the vehicle, Sidman relates a simple story. A small dog escapes from its house and a little cat is abandoned at curbside. These natural enemies meet at a neighborhood park where, forced to wait out a thunderstorm under a picnic table, they take comfort in huddling together and later emerge as buddies. The adjective-loaded unrhymed verse is actually a series of descriptive phrases that have been compressed and arranged to create elements of the artwork. For example, the words "large/white steamy/bread loaves rising/in the sun's bright heat/a billowing batch/of cumulus" are printed in white and presented in the shape of a cloud, while "patchwork, rabbit-nibbled, mower-cropped, wind-whispered grass" fills a green border along the bottom of the page. Computer-generated cartoon graphics of the cat, dog, three crows, and other animals are set against a sky-blue background. Some details (the dog's tail and ears; a bird's wings) have gray-toned shadows that indicate movement. Some of the language is creative, and the beat is catchy, but occasionally the crowded monochromatic text is difficult to read, and many of the pages are cluttered with words and graphics. Joan Bransfield Graham's Flicker Flash (1999) and Splish Splash (1994, both Houghton) and J. Patrick Lewis's Doodle Dandies (S & S, 1998) are better examples of concrete poetry for the same age group.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A fat brown puppy escapes from his house as a round white kitten is abandoned by its owners. They find themselves in a park, where the inevitable hostilities are interrupted by a thunderstorm, after which they just as inevitably become friends. If the bare bones of the story are nothing new, the presentation is. Each element on the page is made up of a series of concrete poems, the clouds beginning as "wisp[s]," growing to a "thunder-plumped seething mass of gloomy fuming / black-bottomed storm brewing" spread across the double-page sky, and shrinking to "tuft[s]" after the rain. The poems are rendered in appropriately colored and shaped typefaces: The grass is green, elongated, skinny sans-serif blades against a lighter green background, while the tree is made up of plump green letter-leaves atop solidly blocky brown trunk-letters. Newcomer Berg's simple, almost infantile shapes and primary palette serve to draw the reader's eyes to the shaped poems that are the work's main event. While mediating between the poems and the pictures they form presents a challenge to the reader, the playfulness and originality of concept make this a welcome offering. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9)