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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

The color of summer

June 26, 2009

It's always good to rediscover something, especially if that something slows you down, makes you think, and creates vivid images.

What I've rediscovered is Mary O'Neill's collection of poems about colors, Hailstones and Halibut Bones (Doubleday). Though the book was originally published in 1961, it was newly illustrated in the late 1980s and recently reissued. Old is new all over again.

The collection of a dozen or so poems begins with a poetic invitation: "Like acrobats on a high trapeze/The Colors pose and bend their knees/Twist and turn and leap and blend/Into shapes and feelings without end…."

But this invitation does more than simply welcome. It effectively describes what readers will experience when they read the poems and examine the watercolor illustrations. Of course the pictures reflect the mood of the poems, but when word and image are shared together, well, it creates a place, a time, a feeling — all the more powerful when seen and heard (because after all, poetry cries to be shared aloud).

Colors around us change as the seasons change. We've just launched summer and summer reading. Why not use poetry to slow children (and adults!) down during the longer, color-filled days?

And it seems to me that yellow is best to welcome and describe summer for "Yellow is the color of the sun/the feeling of fun/The yolk of an egg….Daisy hearts/Custard pies and/Lemon tarts."


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"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain