Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems

Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrator:   Melissa Sweet 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Candlewick Press, 2014   ISBN: 978-0763648428

We live in a world where many of us value quantity over quality. We want our food supersized, we want two-for-the-price-of-one, and are we are delighted when we get more for our money at sales. The problem with this approach to life is that often more is not necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Minimalist art and spare and powerful writing can have as much if not more impact than artwork full of detail and reams and reams of writing.

   This is the case with the wonderful poems in this collection, all of which are short and compelling. Paul Janeczko takes us through a year, which is divided up into seasons, sharing a splendid collection of very short poems with us. The poems include the writings of William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Charlotte Zolotow, Joyce Sidman, and Emily Dickinson.

   We begin in spring when “Rain beats down, / roots stretch up.” Where the rain and the roots meet, a flower appears aboveground.

   In the summer the sun plays a big role, floating in the sky like a “roaring dandelion.” At night fireflies like “baby stars” blink “Among the trees like dimes of light.” Charlotte Zolotow paints a picture of a little orange cat, which, “like a small tiger,” stalks through a field of “white daisies / and shining / buttercups.”

   Fall is a time for fog that “blurs the morning,” and leaves drift down telling us that change is coming. The wind is busy searching for who knows what “under each leaf.”

   In winter there is snow and chilly temperatures. Animals sleep away the cold nights, and sometimes the cold days as well. We are given the image of “clear winter’s evening” when the crescent moon in the sky and the “round squirrel’s nest” look alike.

   Throughout this remarkable collection the poems are paired with Melissa Sweet’s beautiful and arresting multimedia art. She captures moments of tranquility, and times full of movement perfectly, gifting readers with images that are a joy to explore.