This is a blog specifically created for the purposes of my Literature for Children and Young Adults class at Texas Woman's University. Coming soon will be reviews of titles ranging from children's fiction to poetry to young adult novels. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

July Is a Mad Mosquito

Lewis, J. Patrick (illus. by Melanie W. Hall). 1994. July Is a Mad Mosquito. New York: Atheneum. ISBN: 0689318138

July Is a Mad Mosquito is a poetic tribute to the twelve months of the year, describing each one’s attributes with regards to weather, flora, fauna and ambiance. It spans January’s “paradise” of “snowshoe rabbits…polar bears and timber wolves,” tumbles over the “chickadees” and “crocuses” of March, skips through the “crab apple blossoms” and “clover” of May, blares with the “Color Guard” of July and waves goodbye to the “geese V-turn in the blue goose sky” of October to end the year with “two carolers on the green, who just became a trio with my snowman in between” of December. Each poem is accompanied by an illustrated rendition of the elements of the text.

With its steady rhythm and its simple vocabulary, this poetry book’s lack of complication is ideal for poetry newcomers. Though somewhat stereotypical, each poem alludes to the nostalgic traditions of the American seasons. However, it is only one perspective of these seasons. For instance, very few Texans have seen “A country dressed in winter white” very often in their native state. Also, the references to “traditions” such as Christmas (“And people kiss by mistletoe…So hurry, reindeer, please”) might make some children feel excluded (namely, the Jewish). Still, the title poem is infectious and light. One can almost hear the parade gearing up:

One for the kid with the corn-dog stick
Two for his Sno-Kone sister
Three for the girl in the Dunking Booth
You tried to sink but missed her

Four for the Labrador licking the pool
Five for the mad mosquitoes
Six hurrays for the Dreamsicle days
Seven for the bee torpedoes

Eight for ka-bang! and ka-boom-boom-boom!
Nine for the fireflies dancing
Ten for the Fourth of July parade
And the Color Guard advancing

Red-hot summer days are here!
And white-hot firework nights!
Turn up the heat
And the marching beat
But don’t turn out the lights!

The illustrations do a marvelous job of echoing the mood of each month. January is white but the blues grays and hints of pink add the illusion of a low sun and sleepy sky, while the bright yellows, oranges, greens and reds of the summer months seem to wake the reader up, only to let the somber purples and browns of fall bring us back to the blues of winter. There is an animal or insect in all but three of the illustrations, letting us see how the natural world around us reacts to the seasons.

School Library Journal says, “An enjoyable volume that should enliven and enhance most poetry collections.”

Publishers Weekly calls it, “a pleasant, though not particularly innovative, look at the calendar.”

Kirkus Reviews—“Though he offers few epiphanies, Lewis’s descriptions are vivid, his images are fresh and appealing, and he makes deft use of a variety of rhyme schemes and verse forms...”

Booklist says “each poem celebrates one month of the year, generally with verse reflecting nature from a child’s point of view… Appearing with the poems on double-page spreads are Hall’s lively illustrations, fanciful scenes in popsicle-bright pastels and muted blues and browns. No fireworks here, but a few sparklers, enough to justify purchase for large poetry collections.”

This short collection could be used to afford discussion on how seasons recall certain memories, colors, and iconic symbols and how those might be different depending on ones own culture. Children could be asked to write their own poems about their favorite month and accompany it with an illustration.

Reviewed by Joelie Key-Tissot 10/05/06


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