Images from Janell Cannon's
Reviews: (by author)
Sidman, Joyce. Meow/ Ruff A Story in Concrete Poetry. Illus. Michelle Berg. New York : Houghton Mifflin, 2006. ISBN 0-618-44894-2. $16.
This is now on my favorite-books-ever list. Concrete poetry mimics in the shape and design of the poem what the poem is about, like Carroll's "The Mouse's Tale." Here Sidman and Berg kick the standard concrete depiction of one thing at a time up several notches to tell an entire story: a puppy and a kitten make friends sheltering from the rain. Basic, but here transformed into provocative art. The pictures are literally made up of words describing what the characters are doing. It's very sophisticated and very simple and must be seen to be appreciated. Hats off.
A. Allison, June 2006
Sidman, Joyce . Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems. Illus. Beckie Prange. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005. ISBN 0-618-13547-2
In this pleasing picture book, Joyce Sidman combines scientific information with melodic poems focusing on pond life; the poems move through the seasons and culminate in the winter stillness as Sidman eloquently focuses on the numerous pond creatures: spring peeper, green-darner, diving beetles, cadis fly, and water boatman. Each has facts placed next to its poem. The movement between the scientific prose and the poem is seamless. Her eleven poems never seem forced or stilted; each is in a different poetic form: rhymed and unrhymed, haiku, and shaped/concrete poem. In addition to the poems and scientific information, Sidman's picture book includes a Glossary of scientific terms-helpful to young readers and to teachers.
Toni Rowden, January 2006
Sidman, Joyce. This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Illus. Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton, 2007. ISBN 0-618-61680-2.
Sidman’s concept is to take on the persona and voices of elementary school children making poems of apology to various people. She begins with an introduction by “Anthony K., editor,” who explains the undertaking is the poetry unit his class is doing for teacher Mrs. Merz. And, yes, William Carlos Williams’ poem “This Is Just to Say” is printed in full. The apologetic poems range from touching to downright hilarious, addressed to classmates, siblings, parents, even to Mrs. Merz. Ricky writes to his hamster:
. . .
Anthony K. explains that the assignment was to write poems that would elicit responses. So Sidman provides these as well: poems of forgiveness, acceptance, or lingering grudge, such as this by Carrie (Alyssa’s sister—the one Alyssa stabbed with a pencil):
Roses are red,
Here is an excerpt from “Mrs. Garcia (in the office)” to Thomas:
Of course I forgive you.
Other exchanges are poignant, as between Jewel and her father, who’s on his way back home after reading her poem to him.
Zagarenski’s art is amazing, utilizing design and texture as well as vibrant multimedia and varied backgrounds of school notebook paper, newspaper clippings, or soft pastels. It’s an imaginative, enjoyable book of poetry, valuable in that it communicates easily and on a direct level with its audience of 9-12 year-old-readers. Sidman’s framework is indeed a good idea for a structured study of writing, receiving, and responding to poetry, and it brings poetry directly into the lives of the book’s readers.
A. Allison, June 2007