Always Everywhere

writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in
language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through
meaning, sound, and rhythm

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought
and the thought has found words.
Robert Frost

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, 
and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.
Percy Bysshe Shelley

You can open a dictionary to seek the definition but each dictionary chooses to vary their explanations ever so slightly with their word choices which tend to be more complicated than clear for younger readers.  Searching online will reveal a multitude of meanings.  If you ask a poet you will get at least as many ideas as there are poets. 

One way to discover how poetry is defined is by reading all types, long and short and everything in between.  Even better might be to ask your most trusted friends.  In Daniel Finds a Poem (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House L. L. C., February 16, 2016) written and illustrated by Micha Archer, a little boy decides to do this.

Daniel knows all the rocks, trees, and animals in the park.

On one of his walks at the park on a Monday morning, Daniel notices something not normally seen on his daily strolls.  It's a sign announcing 

Poetry in the Park.

Poetry is not a word known by Daniel.  Without realizing it, he has uttered a question out loud.

A voice answers.  Startled Daniel looks up at Spider clinging to a web.  Spider is speaking to him!  He stores the words in his memory.

With this wonderful discovery that he can communicate with animals, Daniel visits this natural sanctuary the next day.  Carefully clinging to an oak branch he wonders what Squirrel will say.  In the true nature of these tree dwellers, the importance of a specific kind of leaves is duly quoted and noted.  

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday our spirited seeker finds Chipmunk, Frog, and Turtle.  None of their responses to his query,

Do you know what poetry is?

are the same.  Each is a reflection of what pleases them the most. 

It's later in the day on Saturday when Daniel notices Cricket hidden from the heat.  When the sun drops below the horizon, the insect musician chirps his reply.  As he gets ready for bed that evening the curious boy hears another friend outside nearly ready to take flight.  Owl calls to Daniel with phrases as beautiful as the soft darkness of the night.  On Sunday in the park, Daniel shares the gifts given to him by his friends.

Although Micha Archer has illustrated many books, this is her first title as both the author and the illustrator.  With the first sentence you know Daniel is an observant boy appreciating the natural world around him.  He may live in the city instead of the country but he sees with his mind and his heart.  

A rhythm is established by having Daniel visit the park on each of the seven days of the week.  His question is the same to each animal (which adds to the cadence) but the activities in which he meets them vary as do the responses of the animals, elevating our interest in his conversations.  By having Daniel speak a final impression out loud at the close of the day, we understand all that poetry has come to mean to him and to another in his presence.  Here is a sample exchange from the book.

On Friday, Daniel parts the cattails and finds Turtle.  
"Hello, Turtle.
I have a question.  Do you know what poetry is?'

"I think poetry is sun-warmed sand," Turtle says. 

When you first see Daniel climbing on the rock sharing a look with Chipmunk, you are getting a glimmer of the magic which will unfold in this book.  The patterned paper in the title text and used in Daniel's attire adds the right amount of color to the more subdued shades of the natural surroundings.  To the left on the back of the dust jacket in a swirl of grass green, Micha Archer has placed two irregular-shaped ovals which show a tiny Daniel in the distance looking at the pond fringed in cattails.  A dragonfly is nearly life size in the foreground.

As my kindergarteners now say, Archer has left us a surprise on the book case.  One of the interior images has found a home there.  The opening and closing endpapers are a rich warm red.  A smaller reversed version of another interior illustration is shown on the title page.  

Rendered in oil and collage, using tissue paper and patterned papers created with homemade stamps, the pictures invite us to pause with each page turn.  With every reading more exquisite details are revealed.  We are further intrigued by the changes in perspective employed by Archer.  We may be viewing a scene as if we are birds perched on a tree, a person standing with full vantage of the park, or as Daniel's shadow getting as close as possible to the animals.  Each double-page image is brimming with beautiful blends of color and artistic design.  Careful readers will look with delight at the final large illustration noting all the visitors, other than the humans, who are listening to the poem. 

One of my favorite illustrations (I adore every single one.) is of Daniel at the pond lying on the bank.  He is reaching into the water with one of his hands; the other is beneath his head as a pillow.  In ripples of blue and green layers, the frog leaps from a leaf boat constructed by Daniel, diving.  As he breaks the surface Archer gives us a peek at the life under the water in warmer shades of yellow and orange.  Goldfish and tadpoles swim among the water lilies and around the cattails. 

Daniel Finds a Poem written and illustrated by Micha Archer is a title everyone will want to have on their professional and personal bookshelves.  It is a perfect introduction to poetry and to developing an appreciation for the simple pleasures afforded us in nature.  In the words said by many students over the years whenever they've enjoyed a title beyond description, I love this book!

To learn more about Micha Archer and her other work please visit her website and blog by following the links attached to her name.  One additional image is shown at the publisher's website.  Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries John Schumacher listed this as one of the 8 Must-Read Picture Books in 2016.  For a truly splendid explanation on the artistic process Micha Archer used for this title, stop by Reading Style Guide.  To hear Micha Archer pronounce her name visit Take a moment to enjoy the tweet below as John Schumacher shares the dust jacket and book case. 

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