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Playing with words.

Children's poetry has long been a staple of the learning process, and there are a number of wonderful books out there that will help your child learn language, and imaginative skills, while developing a love of poetry that will last a lifetime. From new books that are being released, representing worlds in which our children can see themselves, to the classics, here are some selections that grown-ups and children can have fun with together!

ABC of African American Poetry written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, January 2001, $5.99, ISBN 0-689-84045-4

This colorful collection takes children on an alphabetic journey through excerpts from the work of some of the great African American poets in history. Younger children will love the bright illustrations and way the alphabet pops into the poetry, while older children will be able to comprehend some of the larger issues that poetry addresses and may be inspired to seek out more of their work. This is a great book to work on important language skills with children while celebrating National Poetry Month.

The Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Matt Wawiorka Oxford University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-195-14306-X

Originally published by Hughes in 1954, this reissue, illustrated 40 years later by Wawiorka, offers children a window into rhythm, as seen and quirkily explained by one of our most popular poets. School-age children can follow Hughes as he finds the rhythm inherent in every aspect of daily life from the flap of an insect's wings, to the swoop of grandma's rocking chair and "the flicker of a fish, the leap of a monkey, the wiggle of a puppy, the dive of a heron, the balance of hummingbirds." Fun to read over and again--children will pick up something new each time.

DeShawn Days by Tony Medina, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie Lee & Low Books, April 2001, $16.95, ISBN 1-584-30022-1

In this new release, celebrated New York poet Tony Medina takes to the illustrated page and brings young readers uptown and into the world of 10-year-old DeShawn. Medina's poetry is immediately accessible to young readers and he sketches a world filled with learning, love, fear, joy and loss intimately matched by Christie's colorfully eerie artwork.

Poems like "What Life is Like in the `Hood," "I Hate Graffiti," "My Friend in School" help children address their feelings about pressing daily issues. "I used to think that watching the news was boring," says DeShawn in "Watching the News," "but now I think it's scary too!"

Touching poems like "Staying up Late," "When My Grandmother Died" and "My Princess Story" take kids from the outside world to the inside of their most personal fears and dreams. The body of poems works together as more than just separate musings on the issues faced by young DeShawn, but a collective slice of his life and feelings. As in real life, the subjects DeShawn is dealing with cross each others' boundaries, and pop up again in different poems. By not wrapping things up neatly at the end of each poem, Medina offers children an important lesson. Through the love and support of their families and friends they can, as Medina says in his afterword, use their "imagination to see things differently and to help others."

If There Would Be No Light: Poems from my Heart by Sahara Sunday Spain HarperCollins, February 2001, $17.00, ISBN 0-062-51740-6

Eight-year old Sahara Sunday Spain displays an impressive depth of understanding in her new collection of original poetry. Most of the poems deal with love, and the angle at which they are approached provide for a deeper understanding that only a child's simplicity can offer.

Spain approaches love universally. With the perspective of a wise elder, surprised by nothing, Spain transcends the fleshy, whiny love found to exist between fickle hearted men and women, and speaks of love as an all-encompassing entity with the power to unify the world.

The line between youthful simplicity and inexperience is bound to be blurred, and there are times when she sounds more like the third-grader she is, than a wizened sage. But, the mere idea that both personas embody her young spirit makes this collection of poetry an inspiration for other children (and adults!), and offers poetry lovers a young poet to keep our eyes on and watch as she blossoms.

The Session Family: Short Stories and Poetry by Gary E. Session Gary Session, 1997, $9.95, ISBN 0-965-80061-X

Led by the father of the family, Gary E. Session, the poems and short stories in this family project illustrate the complexities of family life and love. The poems and stories in this book are made accessible to even the youngest of readers, with cheerful illustrations accompanying the text.

Readers will hear the different voices that make up the family from the daughter's poem about feeling that her father screams too much, to the father's, lamenting his inability to come home early enough to his family every day.

This book sets out to display the smaller aspects of every family's life, proving that we all go through emotional downturns and upswings with the ones we love. But in the end, it is the positive that shines through.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Cox, Matthews & Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bashir, Samiya A.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Previous Article:Help Wanted at Our Libraries.
Next Article:Words With Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art.

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