When Jane Yolen gets together with her photographer son Jason to create a book, the result is always fantastic. Today's poetry title is one of these collaborative books, and I was delighted to spend a quiet half hour reading it.
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Boyds Mills Press, 2002, 1-59078-173-2
Jane Yolen belongs to a family of bird watchers. Encouraged by their father, all three of Jane’s children grew up watching birds and trying to identify them. Her youngest son Jason “was always the keenest birder of the family,” and when he sent his mother some photos of birds that he took in South Caroline and Florida, she asked him to send her some more. The pictures were so beautiful and powerful that she wanted to write poems to accompany them, and this is what she has done in this book.
In her poems, Jane Yolen explores the lives of fourteen different species of birds. Some of the poems capture a moment, a snippet of time. For example, in the first poem we see a beautiful egret, “A cloud of feathers / above the feathered pond.” There it stands still until a man in a boat arrives, and then the shy bird flies up with a “rush of broad wings.”
Other poems give us a portrait of the bird being described. In Brother Hawk, the hawk tells us what it is waiting for as it sits on its “solitary perch.”
Then there are those word paintings that beautifully describe the bird shown in the accompanying photograph. When she saw her son’s photo of Wilson’s Warbler sitting on a twig, Jane Yolen felt that the little bird looked as if “sunshine / fell down on a branch.”
Using a variety of poetry forms including a gem-like haiku, Jane Yolen takes us into a world of feathers, bright eyes, shiny beaks, and open sky. The overall effect of the book is to give us a sense of the poet’s obvious love of birds.