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Friday, September 06, 2013

Stardines

Stardines Swim High Across The Sky
                                  and other poems
by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Carin Berger


Mr.Prelutsky is an inspiration. No doubt he has single-handedly managed to kindle the inner poet in many kids, but, I can only attest to the two I know intimately - my own.

When I was reading Pizza, Pigs & Poetry to my then 7 year old daughter, it struck me that Mr.Prelutsky has made poetry fun and accessible for kids by writing about anything and everything under the sun that will appeal to a broad set of tastes. And, through this book, he generously shares many tools and techniques to demystify poetry-writing.

Growing up on a steady dose of  Dr.Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky, the kids seem genuinely fond of poetry - and not necessarily the esoteric, evocative ones that are traditionally exalted, but the engaging, playful ones that straddle the lines of the absurd and the profound.

The latest book to turn into an obsession based on repeat reads is Stardines.

Associating intangible traits with well-known animals, Jack, (as the 5 year old prefers to address, and I perfectly understand some names can be tricky to pronounce), has presented a clever set of  16 poems that not only entertain but also challenge the young minds to think beyond the conventional.

Stardines, as can be guessed, are stars that swim about high in the sky like a school of sardines.

My favorites were: Plandas - Pandas that plan and plan but never get anything done; Braindeer - Reindeer with such amazing brain that has solved all the mysteries of the universe but can't communicate it to us as they cannot speak or write; The Gloose - Goose that's adhesive and has a tough time getting anywhere; and Bardvarks - Aardvarks that fancy themselves as poets but are so awful and we can't make them stop.

The 8 year olds favorites are: Bluffaloes, Jollyfish and Magpipes.

The five year old probably missed some of the nuances and the subtle humor, but, something about this collection had him excited enough to make a poetry book of his own. And a when a work that I admire manages to inspire the kids to create (or imitate), I am all for it.

Plus, he had a question and a thought for Mr.Prelutsky:

Q: Why are there Stardines and Bluffaloes and Magpipes in the plural whereas The Fountain Lion and The Gloose are not?

Thought: Tattlesnake, Tattlesnake should have been the last poem as it has "we" in it, so it will look like all the other animals in the book together are talking about how they don't like Tattlesnake's habit of telling on them.

What I admire deeply about these poems is the uncompromising use of words - no dilution, no patronizing, just unadulterated joy. And, no gimmicks, no odd menagerie of amalgamated mutants, but an inventive marriage of everyday animals with incongruous peculiarities.

BLUFFALOES are bulky beasts,
Preposterously large.
Their demeanor is imposing,
They appear to be in charge.

Despite their size and attitude,
They're neither fierce nor tough,
And BLUFFALOES just run away
If you should call their bluff.

Of course, last but not the least, the book would be incomplete without the brilliant illustrations by Carin Berger. Each 2-page spread is a carefully constructed diorama with cut paper and other found objects, plus tags and labels and pins and things that have the quaint vintage charm. That just barely scratches the surface. How does an artist match the skilled wordplay in such a work? Magpipes are amazingly rendered and so are the Braindeer. How about Bluffalo - how can the abstract 'bluff' be presented alongside the majestic 'buffalo'? Ms.Berger has done it!

Browse Inside at HarperCollins

[image source: HarperCollins]





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