Last year I loved Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith, so I wanted to be sure to read her newest book, even in galley, Mother Poems. Excellent 72-page book of poems. Smith has another winner on her hands for middle school and upper elementary. I’m so glad I was able to share this with my faculty during National Poetry Month. It’s out in stores for you to order.
I did have to be very careful while placing my galley copy in teachers hands. I had to explain that this is not a cheery-feel-good -about-your- mother-while-helping-the-class-write-Mother’s-Day-poems title. The poems stand on their own, but they are part of a larger story of the author’s mother who sadly dies half way through Mother Poems.
Mother Poems is a beautiful tribute to one mother, the late mother of the girl who begins this book and who continues to share moving poems as she grows and learns to cope. Learning to cope and to continue living without her mother is a major part of this story. Thank Goodness this book lost it’s rumored earlier name - the name of one of the last poems in this book and a definite tearjerker. Instructions on How to Lose Your Mother.
The folk-art illustrations are deceptively simple as Hope Anita Smith uses torn paper collages to create faceless characters in bold colors on pure white pages. The reader can more easily put him/herself into these pictures and feel the pain of the author as she first celebrates the wonderfulness of her mother, then the shock of loss, and the emptiness while rebuilding. This may be the first book Hope Anita Smith illustrated, but her expressiveness through body language makes this a distinctive work.
My favorite poem is Good Behavior. Here the little girl details all the things she does to try to be good to bring back her mother. It ends:
But it doesn’t help.
My mother is still gone.
I will try harder.
Argh! I get so weepy each time I read the entire poem because I know of children who try to be so good, try to re-invent themselves so their late parents will return.
Check out these links on the web:
A Year of Reading’s Franki
Check out Macmillan’s site on Mother Poems
Sylvia Hardell’s blog Poetry For Children includes a list of poetry collections about love & loss, also a list of poetry books for mothers since Mother’s Day is coming soon.
NPR’s poetry highlight includes Hope Anita Smith reading her poems. Don’t miss it!