Up and Down and Back Again: A Meal of the Stars by Dana Jensen
In a slim book of seventeen poems, Dana Jensen's A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) celebrates all things vertical, both from the bottom up, from earth to outer space, and from the top down, as in the case of falling waters:
What makes Jensen's poems unique is that all of the poems are presented one word per line, ten poems from the bottom up, as they describe things that go up--a giraffe's neck, a zipper, a rocket, an elevator, a winter tree with a nest at the top, to be read, bottom up, as in this one:
...and seven poems are printed the customary way, from top to bottom:
This design device is not entirely new to children's poetry, with quite a few earlier books presenting "shaped poems" with the lines of type laid out on page to form the outline of their subjects. Jensen's forthcoming volume is unique in its focus upon things that are vertical in orientation, and her use of this device really focuses the reader on the descriptive flow of her words. Some of the poems are lyric and some have appealing touches of humor, such as the one describing Dad's ascent rung by rung up a long ladder to the top of the roof to paint... "the/spot/he/missed/the/first/time/up and a zipper which must be zipped... all the way so that snowflakes/don't/sneak/in/and/tickle/me." Each word here gains weight when it is the only one on a line, with no meter or verse form to distract from the flow.
Notable artist Tricia Tusa contributes her charming ink and watercolor illustrations, her familiar comic kid figures extending the text in pictures which invite long looks, making this debut a real contribution to this year's poetry offerings, lots of fun to read silently or aloud for the up-coming Poetry Month.