Monday, June 6, 2011

You Can Never Read Too Much

May 3, 2011

I pulled out a bunch of Cynthia Rylant books. Although they were published over a fairly wide number of years, they all struck me as having a similar structure, being extended poems, some free verse, some rhyming, with little plot or story. Instead they comment on some aspect of the world which Rylant has warm feelings about. I definitely found some of these books more appealing than others. They are all related to her first book, When I Was Young In the Mountains, which also fits this form.


by Cynthia Rylant

illustrated by Lauren Stinger (author/illus. of Winter Is The Warmest Season)

Harcourt, Inc. copyright 2008

Text type—Perpetua; Display type—Monica Dengo

OK. I love snow. Would I have loved this book? Nothing happens. It’s like a longer free verse poem about snow—“The best snow / is the snow that / comes softly in the night, / like a shy friend / afraid to knock, / so she thinks she’ll / just wait in the yard / until you see her….” Or—“And the snow, / while it is here, / reminds us of this: / that nothing lasts forever / except memories.”

The illustrations are beautiful acrylic paintings on 140 Arches with crystal snow flakes and wonderful colors—a controlled palette, but broad.

Cynthia Rylant seems to be able to make picture books out of poems or compose poetic pb’s. Is she a poet and not a storyteller?

Long Night Moon

by Cynthia Rylant

illustrated by Mark Siegel (illustrator of Lisa Wheeler’s Seadogs)

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, copyright 2004

Illustrations in charcoal, pencil, pastel on Arches paper and digital color


Disappointing text for C.R. 12 moons described sweetly. There are 12 ½ lunar months a year. This book perpetuates the myth of nighttime moons and moons fitting calendar months. Too simplified for my taste.

The Stars Will Still Shine

By Cynthia Rylant

Illus. by Tiphanie Beeke

Harper Collins Publishers, copyright 2005

32 pages plus 2 printed pages of end papers—or 40 pp counting end papers.

Simple rhyming poem of reassurance. Warm, colorful, multi-cultural illus. About 1 line of text per page. Could this be published now, in this tight market?

All In A Day

By Cynthia Rylant

Illus. by Nikki McClure

Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, copyright 2009

Illustrations are cut paper with computer color

Rhyming poem turned into picture book. It is the illustrator’s first book, I believe. She may be a friend of Rylant’s. A disappointingly slight poem about living in the now. I prefer Philip Larkin’s, “Days Are Where We Live.”

From these 4 books I see a pattern in some of Cynthia Rylant’s work, of creating a single poem and stretching it over a picture book length. Of these four books, two work for me and two do not. Snow and The Stars Will Shine have more depth to them and I’m probably just not objective enough to really judge her Long Night Moon.

The OK Book

By Amy Kraus Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

Harper Collins, copyright 2007

Using the letters O & K to create a stick figure, OK, this simple text lists many things that “OK” can do, though not well. It ends, “One day, I’ll grow up to be really excellent at something. I don’t know what it is yet… but I sure am having fun figuring it out.”

Text seems a bit didactic to me. The illus. play on the stick-figure shape of OK and are quite expressive. A very limited, muted palette of black, white, pale blue, mustard yellow, and spring green is pleasing.

I am not grabbed by this book (D.T. says “The OK Book is just OK.”), but it is quite clever and I wonder if certain kids will become enamored with the game of personifying OK.

The Island-below-the-Star

Written & illus. by James Rumford

Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1998

Type—Monotype Bulmer

Illust. Are wc on Arches (with some colored pencil lines)

Beautifully written folk tale of 5 brothers who sail from the Marquesas to Hawaii, using their knowledge of the stars, the waves, the clouds, the wind, and the birds to navigate these uncharted waters.

The story is suspenseful, playful, exciting, and satisfying. The interaction is between Manu, the youngest brother and the 4 older ones, who are portrayed almost as a unit. Without contradicting anything that is known of the discovery of Hawaii, Rumford creates a legend that could be true and attributes the discovery more to adventuresome spirit than to duress—in other words, these explorers seek the unknown for the same reasons Bird and Amundson explored Antarctic.

The wc illustrations are spectacular and highly appropriate for the subject—the sea and sky come alive. I see homage to Homer and Gauguin and maybe Turner in these wonderful paintings. The format is small, but the paintings are monumental.

The text seems long for a picture book, but holds the reader’s attention with it’s strong prose.

Diagonal lines give a sense of rocking sea waves. An afterward describes what is known about these first explorers of the Pacific.

Oscar and the Mooncats

By Lynda Gene Rymond

Illust. By Nicoletta Ceccoli

Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2007

32 pp + endpapers

text—ITC Golden Cockerel

illust.—mixed media, plasticine, acrylics, and collage and computer graphics

Oscar the cat has a wild night and runs away to the moon. The cow there warns him that he’ll forget his boy if he drinks the cream from the crater. He’ll become a mooncat. Essentially a retelling of Where The Wild Things are, this story doesn’t quite work for me. Computerized graphics are also a bit jarring to the eyes and sometimes clash with the overlaid text.


James Rumford said...

Aloha! Wow, thanks for the wonderful comments you made about my book. Right now it is out of print, but I am seriously considering turning it into a print-on-demand book, after I have redesigned it to turn it into a bilingual English-Hawaiian book. For more about this book, take a look at my brand new website at Now I'm returning to your blog to read more posts and more about you. Mahalo (thanks), aloha, James Rumford

Sallie Wolf said...

James, I am not very accomplished at blogging and did not realize you had left a comment here. Thanks for checking in. I, for one, would be in the market for your reissued book. Please keep me posted. I just read your Sequoyah, which is equally satisfying. I'm recommending it to my sister who teaches a Cherokee unit in her NC kindergarten class. I'm sure her kids would love the Cherokee syllabary. And I love the picture of you with your notebook at age 8. We would have been good friends.