Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Book: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josée Masse was released last month, but I just had the opportunity to read it this week. Singer is a well-rewarded and recognized poet whose short poems in this book are wonderful. Masse has wonderfully complemented Singer's words with vivid illustrations.

That said, my instincts told me to wait and read this book before I posted about it. I'm glad I did. It is unique and wonderful, mostly what I imagined, but done so much better than I anticipated. Singer and Masse manage to provide both sides of the story from famous fairy tales, using similar imagery--and in Singer's case, the exact same words--to convey differing viewpoints. I've rarely seen this done so well if at all since my memory is failing to produce another example.

Yes, you need this one for your personal library. Here's the link again: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josée Masse. I've enjoyed it myself as an adult without a child present but also anticipate using it with children in the future.

This one can be enjoyed for mere entertainment alone, but it has so many possible applications for teaching and learning, too. It's a "must own" for any library. I haven't been this excited about a picture book in a while and will be shocked if this one isn't in high contention for a Caldecott and other honors over the coming year. Too bad the Caldecott doesn't honor the author as much as the illustrator. It's a bonus for me personally that is uses fairy tales, but I would have been just as impressed if other stories had been used so well instead.

And I had many favorites, but today Hansel and Gretel was my absolute favorite. Wish I could quote it here, but I won't. Go find a copy instead...

And just in case you don't believe me, here are more stellar reviews to back me up:

Publisher's description:

What’s brewing when two favorites—poetry and fairy tales—are turned (literally) on their heads? It’s a revolutionary recipe: an infectious new genre of poetry and a lovably modern take on classic stories.

First, read the poems forward (how old-fashioned!), then reverse the lines and read again to give familiar tales, from Sleeping Beauty to that Charming Prince, a delicious new spin. Witty, irreverent, and warm, this gorgeously illustrated and utterly unique offering holds a mirror up to language and fairy tales, and renews the fun and magic of both.

Starred review from Booklist:

This ingenious book of reversos, or poems which have one meaning when read down the page and perhaps an altogether different meaning when read up the page, toys with and reinvents oh-so-familiar stories and characters, from Cinderella to the Ugly Duckling. The five opening lines of the Goldilocks reverso read:

“Asleep in cub’s bed
startled by
the headline read.”

Running down the page side-by-side with this poem is a second, which ends with:

“Next day
the headline read:
Bears startled
by blonde
asleep in cub’s bed.”

The 14 pairs of poems—easily distinguished by different fonts and background colors—allow changes only in punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks, as Singer explains in an author’s note about her invented poetic form. “It is a form that is both challenging and fun—rather like creating and solving a puzzle.” Singer also issues an invitation for readers to try to write their own reversos on any topic. Matching the cleverness of the text, Masse’s deep-hued paintings create split images that reflect the twisted meaning of the irreverently witty poems and brilliantly employ artistic elements of form and shape—Cinderella’s clock on one side morphs to the moon on the other. A must-purchase that will have readers marveling over a visual and verbal feast.

Starred review from School Library Journal:

This appealing collection based on fairy tales is a marvel to read. It is particularly noteworthy because the poems are read in two ways: up and down. They are reverse images of themselves and work equally well in both directions. "Mirror Mirror" is chilling in that Snow White, who is looking after the Seven Dwarves, narrates the first poem of the pair. Read in reverse, it is the wicked queen who is enticing Snow White to eat the apple that will put her to sleep forever. "In the Hood" is as crafty as the wolf who tells of his delightful anticipation of eating Red Riding Hood. The mirrored poem is Red Riding Hood reminding herself not to dally since Grandma awaits. The vibrant artwork is painterly yet unfussy and offers hints to the characters who are narrating the poems. An endnote shows children how to create a "reverse" poem. This is a remarkably clever and versatile book that would work in any poetry or fairy-tale unit. A must-have for any library.

Review from The Washington Post:
Try writing a poem that, when read backward, still makes sense but means the exact opposite. Now illustrate it with a picture that does the same thing when split down the middle or divided top-to-bottom. Give up? Reading "Mirror Mirror" provides a jovial incentive to try writing a "reverso," a unique and intriguing form created by Marilyn Singer. In this intriguing collection, each poem is a highly abbreviated version of a traditional fairy tale -- of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel -- which turns the familiar into something surprising. "Rumpelstiltskin," for example, cleverly begins by asking readers to name the title character (which is, after all, the central question of the tale). But the reverso version ends by asking readers to identify the traditionally nameless heroine. The accompanying illustration -- lushly colored and highly stylized -- groups the elements of the story in a circle: A spinning wheel at the center morphs into the round entrance of the little gnome's cave; smoke from the fire at the cave's entrance rises to spell out the secret name before drifting off to create spun gold, which connects to the straw, which becomes the sticks, which feed the fire. And that's only one of more than a dozen remarkable puzzle-poem-pictures. Sound like fun? Read. Reverse. Get ready to write! -- Kristi Jemtegaard

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