Calendar Haiku: Hi, Koo! by Jon Muth
REACH DOWN WITH DRIPPING FINGERS.
WILL YOU TOUCH THE GROUND?
In the time of the turning of seasons, we look at nature more closely. Notable author/illustrator Jon Muth believes that a "haiku... is an instant capture in words of an image [which] reminds us that our own human nature is not a separate form of nature," and uses this heightened awareness as the backdrop for his "year of seasons."
As his spokesman, Muth brings back his little panda character, Koo, and lets him wander gently through the seasons, showing us what we might otherwise overlook in each time. Here's little Koo, revisiting a memorable moment in Ezra John Keats' classic, The Snowy Day, as a snow-laden branch dumps a clump on his head:
MY CROWN A GIFT
FROM A SNOWY BRANCH.
A Caldecott award-winning illustrator, Jon Muth shows off his admirable pen-and-ink draftsmanship, married to soft watercolor wash, giving us vignettes which invite the eye to linger, as when we see Koo celebrating his snow-clump coronation, as a bright red cardinal whose landing on the branch caused the avalanche, enjoys the results of his mischief. And during a long summer twilight, Koo and two kids stay outside to play with light and shadow:
SPARKLE IN PUDDLES.
SHADOWS CLIMB TREES.
Muth has an easy-going take in his free-form haiku, each one a word picture greatly amplified by his lovely full-page spreads done in his impressionistic realism, with touches of humor and joy. As a added attraction, Muth also tucks in a surprise alphabet lesson, with the letters in order appearing as a capital letter in each of his 26 poems.
John Muth's Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons (Scholastic Press, 2014) is a thoroughly delightful example of the high art of the picture book, a miraculous melding of language and images in which both companionship and nature itself have starring roles. A book to treasure, for quiet sharing or for use with classes studying the seasons, the alphabet, or poetry.
Kirkus gives this one a starred review, saying "Throughout, condensed poetic image coupled with spare illustration yields huge effect; in a word, magical."