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Author Spotlight::Jane Yolen

poe-friSince April is National Poetry Month and there’s a lovely blog carnival called Poetry Friday that I’ve been itching to participate in, what better time to highlight a very prolific and beloved children’s author who is also a poet.  That’s right!  Jane Yolen, who wrote The Devil’s Arithmetic and scores of wonderful picture books, also has many, many books of poetry to her credit.

I happened upon a couple of Yolen’s poetic works in the picture book section of our library and brought them home because I thought one would appeal to my pioneer loving girls and because I like poetry and nature, so the other one appealed to me.  It turns out I was right on both counts!

Harvest Home is a beautiful picture book written entirely in rhyme.  It is the story of Bess, Ned, and their family, working together “bringing the harvest home.”  Each page includes this refrain three times, in an ababcccb scheme which mimics the rhythm of the reapers reaping the grain.  The story begins with a remembrance of planting time  and then methodically recounts this family tale through a description of the family working together; an emphasis on the necessity of having the help of the neighbors; a description of dinner time fun and the ancestral link to the land; a recounting of the toil of working through the afternoon;  and finally, a triumphant telling of the finishing the harvest with the making of a harvest doll out of a twist of wheat, the joy of eating a bountiful harvest meal together and praising God for the harvest through song and dance. Greg Shed’s illustrations are muted, gentle, and lovely–a perfect accompaniment for a beautiful family story told in beautiful verse form.  Highly recommended!

Least Things:  Poems About Small Natures is a collection of poems and photographs.  Yolen’s inspiration for this book was this quotation from Pliny, the Elder:  “Nature excels in the least things.”  The poems in this book are all haiku, a perfect form to capture the essence of “least things” like a butterfly, a lizard, a tree frog, a snail, and a dragonfly.  This book is a collaborative effort between Yolen, and her son, photographer Jason Stemple.  My favorite poems from the book are about the butterfly which can “paint a psalm” and the dragonfly whose “flight is a hymn.”  Yolen’s foreward in which she explains the process by which she wrote this book is very interesting, as well.  This book would be a great introduction to poetry.  Highly recommended!

Jane Yolen has an awesome, interactive website.  It even includes some samples of her poetryCheck it out!

Do you like poetry?  Who is your favorite poet?  Or, are you like many participants in the Poetry Friday carnival–you write poetry?  Do tell!

Click over to ayuddah.net for this week’s Poetry Friday!


6 Responses

  1. Great review, Amy. I was looking at the Jane Yolen shelf just this week (‘Merlin’), but I confess I’m not that familiar with her work.

  2. I love Jane Yolen! I haven’t read any of her children’s poetry, but I enjoyed her collection “The Radiation Sonnets” – written while her husband was undergoing radiation treatments for brain cancer. She also has a great book about the craft of writing called “Take Joy.”

  3. Jane Yolan is one of my favorite authors. We have several of her photography/poem books in our library, like Least Things. I really enjoy them over and over. Thanks for posting this!

  4. I love Jane Yolen! She is so prolific though that I haven’t read half of what she’s written. I’ll have to check these ones out.

  5. […] Friday::Crossing by Philip Booth 9 10 2009 It’s been a great long while since I last participated in Poetry Friday, but when I happened upon this beautiful picture book, I wanted to share it.  Actually, it took a […]

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