A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children

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9780786851119: A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children

Caroline Kennedy has chosen a rich variety of Kennedy family favorite poems to include in this priceless collection. With thoughtful personal introductions written by Caroline herself, and beautiful new original artwork by award-winning artist, Jon J Muth, this collection is sure to become a family favorite for years to come.

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About the Author:


Caroline Kennedy is the editor of eight New York Times bestselling books on American history, politics, constitutional law and poetry, including She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems and A Family of Poems.



Jon J Muth is the author and artist of the New York Times best-seller and Caldecott Honor book, Zen Shorts. He has illustrated many award-winning books, including another New York Times best-seller, A Family of Poems, by Caroline Kennedy He is also the writer and illustrator of The Three Questions, which the New York Times called "quietly life changing."

From The Washington Post:

The commercially important publishing categories sometimes overlap: the non-book and the celebrity book. The non-book is an object, with contents of little or no importance. The celebrity book is supposed to profit from association with a name customers recognize. But sometimes that recognizable name comes with a real book. Caroline Kennedy's excellent new anthology (illustrated by Jon J. Muth) is an excellent book. The editor shows great respect for children by choosing real poems and including Edward Lear, A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter de la Mare -- the first-class poets for children.

Kennedy also includes Emily Dickinson's " 'Hope' is the thing with feathers," Thomas Hardy's "Snow in the Suburbs," Wordsworth's "Daffodils," Shakespeare's song for Ariel, William Blake's "The Tyger," Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish," Marianne Moore's "A Jelly-Fish," Theodore Roethke's "The Sloth," and William Butler Yeats's "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," along with good jokes by the likes of Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath and even Wallace Stevens's "The Emperor of Ice-Cream." Also, Antonio Machado's "Has My Heart Gone to Sleep," translated by Alan S. Trueblood:

Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?

No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming --
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of the vast silence.

The editor even includes, in an appendix, the text of this and all translated poems in their original languages.

Kennedy intelligently avoids (mostly) the cloying or over-ingratiating contemporary juvenile authors and includes good, sound, anonymous nonsense such as:

Moses

Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
But Moses supposes erroneously;
For nobody's toeses are posies of roses
As Moses supposes his toeses to be.

Also included are some good folk-sick-jokes, for example:

Careless Willie

Willie with a thirst for gore
Nailed his sister to the door
Mother said with humor quaint
"Careful, Willie, don't scratch the paint!"

Kennedy deserves credit for recognizing William Hughes Mearns with his famous four lines often supposed to be anonymous:

The Little Man
Who Wasn't There

As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd stay away.

The book charmingly includes the Lord's Prayer along with Lewis Carroll's "The Crocodile," a parody that has outlived its original, moralistic target:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!

Reading such poems next to more ambitious work by Blake and Dickinson illuminates both kinds by making clear the element of song in the great poems and the element of meaning in the nonsense. This book is a gift for the adults who read it to or with children, as well as for the children. That fact is epitomized by the decision to close with Wallace Stevens's great, quiet poem "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm." "The quiet was part of the meaning," writes Stevens, "part of the mind." The quiet, impish, commanding voice of poetry can be heard in this selection of poems "for" children but -- happily -- not only for children.

By Robert Pinsky
Copyright 2005, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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