Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors Hardcover – Apr 6 2009
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A 2010 Caldecott Honor Book
"It's wonderfully strange to read of colors with sounds, smells and tastes."--New York Times Book Review
"A charming inspiration to notice colors and correlate emotions"--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This book has a freshness and visual impact all its own, and it will inspire a rainbow of uses."--The Bulletin, starred review
"Sustaining the playfulness of the text and its sense of awe, mystery, and beauty, the illustrations contribute gracefully to the celebration."--Horn Book, starred review
"As the title implies, the colors that surprise on every page, do sing."--Booklist, starred review
About the Author
Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman is simply one of the best poets writing for children today. Her accolades include a Lee Bennet Hopkins Award, winner of the Cybil Award, Texas Bluebonnet Master List, two Caldecott Honors, winner of the Claudia Lewis Award, and many stars and notables and best of lists. For her award-winning body of work, she recently won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. She lives in Wayzata, Minnesota. Visitwww.joycesidman.com Pamela Zagarenski is the winner of two Caldecott Honors. The books she has illustrated have also been Booklist Editor's Choices, Horn Book Fanfare and Bulletin Blue Ribbon books, winners of Bank Street's Claudia Lewis Award, and translated into many languages. As well as illustrating picture books, she creates paintings and has a gift card line. She lives in Connecticut. Visit www.pzagarenski.com."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There are a lot of poems about color out there and I am sure that practically any elementary-aged child in the English-speaking world has had to write one. It's pretty easy and has a low-risk level (unlike my cat - long story). However, like most things that are pretty easy to do, they are really hard to do well.
I have spent many an early morning and late evening in my yard trying to think of an opening line for a poem about a cardinal. When you live in the northern regions of this fair land, the sight of a cardinal's scarlet plumage against eye-searing-white snow is sometimes the only hope you have that the world is still turning and you're not stuck in this frozen wasteland forever. Don't get me wrong, winter is beautiful when it first comes and everything is clean white,
"White dazzles day
and turns night
But, at a certain point, you need to see green.
Luckily for me, Sidman knows this, too and she comes endowed with the magic touch with words. It's like she got inside my heart - because, truly, that's where poetry germinates - and translated it in to these beautiful poems - because, truly, that's what the poets you love do.
Red beats inside me:
Sidman is frugal but never meagre with her words. They take on the exact shape, smell, and feel of the season's passing colors. The verses are short but complete and leave pleanty of room for the stunning art work of Zagarenski. Verse and picture blend seamlessly together. Zagarenski never tries to "outcolor" the poems,and her palate is rich and delicious just when it needs to be. Zagarenski also illustrated Sidman's This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgivenessand the same crowned and whimsically dressed figures run through these pages. The cardinal is ever present with his own crimson crown. Each page tells a story and I discover something new every time I read the book.
Luckily for us, Sidman and Zagarenski know how to make a simple thing look and sound stunningly difficult.
each note drops
like a cherry
her tremendous joy is reason enough to recommend this book to anyone who loves words, loves colors and appreciates the seasons.
The lush illustrations are worthy of a book that speaks in color--a delight!
If you're going to write poems about the seasons, it's good to find a way to do so. Why not use colors then? Poet Joyce Sidman takes on the challenge, describing each season with a series of six or so poems, sometimes using the colors you'd expect (green for spring, of course) and sometimes using colors you wouldn't normally consider (gray for summer). The poems elicit thrills as they discuss the small moments that make a season feel real to a person. Watching moths flutter outside a screen door. The suddenness of a spring storm. The different shades of blue you spot on the waves of a lake or ocean. And in almost every picture a red bird flies high above, the Red who sings the seasons, one after another after another.
I don't actually know the story behind this book. A co-worker informed me that rather that lots of little separate poems this is actually a book that's just one big poem broken up into small sections. Maybe it's true, but that's not how it felt to me. While there was certainly a connection between one section and another (she doesn't just throw autumn into the middle of spring or summer amidst the cold blowing winds of December) they are separate little entities in and of themselves. Each little poem (if you see them as such) is a different color, and not always the color you might associate with a season. Pink for winter? Makes a lot more sense with Sidman tells you that "Pink blooms powder-soft over pastel hills." At the same time, colors repeat themselves. Pink also happens to be a spring color. "And here, in secret places, peeps Pink: hairless, featherless, the color of new things." The color is now the crisp cold morning light on the one hand, and the soft unprotected underbelly of a helpless creature on the other.
Generally I don't have much respect for summer. Don't get me wrong, I love it when I'm in it. But reading about it? Blah blah sand blah blah sun. So how much more impressive it is to me when Sidman brings summer to life (just as she does every season) in a way that doesn't rely on old tropes and overused phrases? When talking about a warm twilight she writes simply, "Purple pours into summer evenings one shadow at a time, so slowly I don't notice until hill, house, book in my hand, and Pup's Brown spots are all Purple." So she does a good summer, but the real test? How does she treat my favorite season of the year, fall? Well for starters she brings up the green that you see in the fall. "Green is tired, dusty, crisp around the edges." That is true. Brown rules the fall, red falls from the trees, and yellow becomes the school bus. Purple is the smell of, "old leaves, crushed berries, squishy plums with worms in them. Purple: the smell of all things mixed together." And finally, the great and powerful orange of Halloween alongside the black "resting in dark branches". Brilliant.
And of course, there are the pictures. Another co-worker of mine (they're an outspoken crew) found the fact that a lot of animals and people wear crowns in this book just a bit too twee. This is true. There is a crown on the main character, whosoever that person is, and on the animals as well. I agree that crowns can be considered twee (particularly when they hover over the baby birds' heads) but fortunately (A) I wasn't distracted by them until I was told to notice them and (B) I find them more fun than anything else. Crooked crowns like those worn by Jughead or Bugs Meaney are particularly cool. Besides, it takes a hard and hardened heart not to enjoy the illustrations in this book, which are not twee in the least. Now I'll confess to you that Zagarenski is working with mixed media paintings on wood (with computer illustrations for spice) and I am not always a mixed media fan. I tend to like my media unmixed, but this artist does a stand up job of conjuring up the very temperature of a season. Those black summers feel muggy and that fall so crisp. You come to trust Zagarenski's choices. So much so that even a whale in a night sky makes perfect sense in the context of its surroundings. You do not question these selections. She gives you no reason to.
The design is particularly pleasing too. The designers of the world simply do not get enough credit sometimes. Maybe this is all Zagarenski, but the poems really work beautifully within and with the illustrations. We've all seen those children's books where the picture book text has been dismissed to a plain white border, produced solely for the purpose of making the words legible. Here the words are readable and they always make sense that they crop up where they do. You wouldn't put them anywhere else.
From a purposeful standpoint I will sometimes get teachers or parents in my library looking for poetry collections that support the curriculum in one way or another. I had one woman come in looking for poems about shapes (it can be found, but it's not easy). Colors and seasons are similar requests, and I'm sure that there are children's librarians all over the country fielding such reference questions. Sometimes you have to rely on some dilapidated old title that just happens to be what you need. And sometimes, just sometimes, you can hand them something like Red Sings from Treetops secure in the knowledge that you've just introduced your patrons to something fabulous. The first time I hand this to a patron I know I'll be positively giddy and probably repeating "Have you seen it? Have you seen it? Have you seen it?" like a broken record. Beautiful in every possible sense of word, this is a book that engages both the heart and the eyes. Necessary purchase.