Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems Hardcover – Mar 4 2010
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"A mesmerizing and seamless celebration of language, imagery and perspective." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Masse’s clever compositions play with symmetry, bringing this smart concept to its fullest effect." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Cleverly constructed and insightful."—The Horn Book, starred review
"Truly a visual, as well as a literary, puzzle and such a treat!" —Library Media Connection, starred review
“Fun, thoughtful, beautifully written poems that employ a poetic form called a reverso to spin a familiar fairy tale in a new direction.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
With 6 starred reviews, 8 best of the year lists, and over 20 state award nominations, everyone is raving about Mirror Mirror!
Mirror Mirror is an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best 100 Children's Book of the Year, a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editors Choice, a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year, a Washington Post Top 15 Children’s Book of the Year, a Horn Book Fanfare Book, a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year, a Land of Enchantment Book Award Winner, and one of Time Out New York Kids' 50 Best Books for Kids.
About the Author
Marilyn Singer is an award-winning author of more than 90 children’s books in a wide variety of genres.
Josée Masse is a recognized artist in her native Canada, having illustrated numerous French and American picture books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Better flip to the back of the book (how appropriate!) if you want an explanation of what's going on here. Says the last page, "We read most poems down a page. But what if we read them up?" Calling such poems "reversos", Singer's concept is simple. Each poem is repeated. The one on the left is read down. Then Singer takes the same words, puts in some slightly different punctuation, and when each line is read backwards it tells an entirely new story. The stories in this book are fairy tales and Singer not only tells the tales frontwards and backwards but gives them new stories too. The ugly duckling, for example, has some doubts of his own potential beauty. In his upbeat poem he says confidently, "Plain to see - / look at me. / A beauty I'll be." Then doubts set in and he sighs, "A beauty I'll be? / Look at me - / plain to see." One of the smartest books out there for kids, young readers will be entranced by Singer's wordplay and Masse's lovely (if not equally clever) illustrations.
When I first heard of a "reverso" I thought it meant a poem where every single word is backwards when it repeats. Fortunately, Singer has no wish to drive herself bonkers. It's not every word that's backwards, but lines. This makes for great wordplay, and some creative solutions. My favorite is the poem that I think also comes across as the cleverest. "In the Hood" is a Little Red Riding Hood take. It's short, so I can write it in full here. On the Little Red side of the equation it reads, "In my hood / skipping through the wood / carrying a basket / picking berries to eat - / juicy and sweet / what a treat! / But a girl / mustn't dawdle. / After all, Grandma's waiting." The wolf replies, "After all, Grandma's waiting, / mustn't dawdle . . . / But a girl! / What a treat - / juicy and sweet, / picking berries to eat, / carrying a basket, / skipping through the wood / in my `hood."
Alas, not every poem is equally strong. I found I was a little baffled by the Rapunzel verses, since I couldn't figure out who was telling each of the two poems. Generally speaking, though, these glitches are the exception rather than the rule. And if you don't care for one poem, you're bound to think another is fantastic.
Most folks will probably look at the pictures here and assume that illustrator Josee Masse utilizes a kind of paint on wood technique similar to the work of Stefano Vitale. Not the case, I assure you. According to her editor, "she painted the pieces of art with acrylic paint on illustration board. She uses an undercoat of acrylic which is what gives the texture . . . . Then she builds up colors on top of that". These puppies clearly took serious work to make. What I like about the pictures too is how well she has split the pictures that accompany the poems into two mirror-like images. Their details reflect how well Masse has understood the text too. For example, in the poem "Do You Know My Name?" the girl from the Rumpelstiltskin story laments that even though she's the beloved heroine, no one ever knows her name. On the opposite page we see the little man dancing beside a fire that burns his name into smoke, while on the other side that smoke has turned into golden thread that spells out nothing at all. Extra points to Masse for taking the time to draw a correct bobbin on a spinning wheel too. Most artists of that story don't take the time (Paul Zelinsky being an exception).
I can't help but think that with the success of this book Singer and Masse will simply have to give in to the demands of their fans and do a sequel of sorts. Why, they could take nursery rhymes in the second! Then classic children's books in the third. Then famous women from history, tall tales, presidents, the list goes on and on. For now, though, we can enjoy this single Reverso collection, possibly the first of its kind for kids. Beautiful both as object and as a way of getting kids interested in poetic forms, this is a must purchase for any library or home collection. One of a kind.
Each poem is readable frontwards and backwards, with each line acting as its own unit. (This means some of the lines are quite short, of course.)
And the front and the back version of each poem tells the fairy tale from a different perspective. My favorite? The Hansel and Gretel one:
Fatten up, boy!
like prime rib?
Then your hostess, she will roast you
Have another chocolate.
Eat another piece of gingerbread.
When you hold it out,
keep her waiting...
Keep her waiting.
when you hold it out.
Eat another piece of gingerbread,
Have another chocolate -
Then your hostess, she will roast you
like prime rib.
fatten up, boy!
Yes, you need this one for your personal library. 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 school or public 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.
These illustrations are so brilliant that I'm contemplating buying a second copy of the book, removing the pages and framing them - they're that good. I'm just not sure I can myself to damage a book in that way. I've looked at some of Josee Masse's illustrations online and I really like her style, both for kids and adults.
Marilyn Singer's poems themselves are a mixed bag. The concept itself - creating a poem that can be read both forward and backward - is ingenious. Perhaps the best example is the one Ms. Singer presents on the last page - her own first attempt: "A cat/without/a chair:/Incomplete." vs. "Incomplete:/A chair/without/a cat." Although the words are the same, they present a different perspective or even a completely different meaning when read in reverse.
Applying this concept to fairy tales, in which there are often two different characters with different perspectives, is also brilliant. Some of the poems in this book are pitch-perfect. For instance, "In the Hood" does a delightful job of presenting both Little Red's perspective and the Big Bad Wolf's perspective. The reverso, however, doesn't necessarily have to present the perspectives of two different characters. In "The Doubtful Duckling", for instance, both sides of the poem are from the Duckling's perspective, but each gives a different outlook on his transformation to beautiful swan. The Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast poems, along with the final poem ("The Road") are also all very well done.
Not all the poems work so well, however. The two halves of "Mirror Mirror", for example, seem to be saying the same thing. I'm not even sure who the narrator of either side is supposed to be - the Queen for both? "Full of Beans" is similar in that reversing the poem does not significantly change the meaning or perspective of the poem. "Disappointment" (the Princess and the Frog) and "Rapunzel's Locks" are confusing because they don't even seem to follow the story line of the actual fairy tale. Rapunzel doesn't cut her own hair - the enchantress does. And I don't recall anything in "The Princess and the Frog" about a second kiss.
Nevertheless, the beautiful artwork, the poetic concept, and the reversos that do work well lead me to highly recommend this book. I don't, however, recommend it for kids as young as 4 as indicated on Amazon's product review. I don't really think that most kids will appreciate this book until they are able to read, so they can understand the concept of reading up and down the page. Also, kids have to have at least the beginnings of abstract thinking to understand the different perspectives of the reversos. My own four-year-old (who is generally pretty perceptive) was utterly baffled by the book. I'll probably put it away for a year or two and see how her perception changes.
Full of Beans
What will happen next?
Little does he know.
beanstalk is about to read
fragrant green air.
A boy waits in the
cow, market, beans
leading to this moment:
Time to climb.
This marvelously fun, ingenious book will give you a new appreciation of many of your favorite fairy tale characters. Now, take a pen, pencil, or word processor. Start reversing this poem and your eyes will widen with surprise at what you find. "Time to climb. Leading to this moment: cow, market, beans, garden . . . " I loved the ingenuity and certainly appreciated the hard work that went into creating it. The sweeping, vibrant art work had that magical fairy tale quality we all appreciate. If you want a new experience in poetry, this is simply one book you will not want to pass up!