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Cool melons--turn to frogs! : the life and poems of Issa
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  Publishers Weekly Review

This superb homage to the 18th-century Japanese haiku master is as elegant and spare as the poet's form. Gollub's (The Moon Was at a Fiesta) brief biography introduces Issa's pertinent haiku and tells the story of Issa's transformation from a sad child (his stepmother thwarted his gift) to a recognized, talented poet. Japanese artist Stone (Dorobo the Dangerous), who chose the haiku represented here for Gollub's translation, captures the moment described in each poem with exquisite details, imbued with quiet emotion. For example, for the poem "Climb Mount Fuji,/ Snail, but slowly,/ slowly!" Stone puts readers at a vantage point above a snail traversing a tree branch that appears to lead the way up the great mountain's slope. The poem and image come at the point in the biography when Issa is just beginning his studies, in the long journey to master poet. The book's design lends a fluidity to the interlacing elements: within the narrative, a poem appears on each page, coupled with Stone's expressive visual representation, while the haiku in Japanese calligraphy runs down the outer border. For students of haiku, Gollub explains his deviation from the 17-syllable definition (he chose to adhere closely to Issa's words) and gives a brief history of haiku. Readers would be hard-pressed to find a more eloquent, concise and inspiring approach to understanding (and writing) this deceptively simple art form. Ages 4-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

  School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-A successful collaboration of verse and prose that brings a famous 18th-century poet to life. Gollub's original translations of Issa's haiku are interspersed with biographical narrative (slightly fictionalized) so that each one lends context to the other. Each poem is illustrated with a realistic spot or framed watercolor-and-colored-pencil picture, and rendered in Japanese calligraphy in the outer margin. Stone elaborates on her artistic research in endnotes. Gollub explains in detail how he went about his translations so that readers can understand what to look for and what's lost. Although just an introduction, this book explains much about haiku and those who wrote it, information not usually included in titles written for this age level. However, no mention is made of what made Issa so different from his predecessors-his poetry had a casualness and sense of humor that was both criticized and popular. Along with Dawnine Spivak's Grass Sandals (Atheneum, 1997), this book works at restoring the historical and literary context to this popular form of poetry as well as at instilling an appreciation for one of its most enjoyable practitioners.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Haiku poetry is among the most popular forms of verse taught to children everywhere and for hundreds of years Japanese children have been introduced to haiku through the work of Kobayashi Yataro, known as Issa. Stunningly illustrated in full colour, this gorgeous book introduces the story of this revered haiku master to children and presents a special selection of his best-loved poems. An inspirational book for readers young and old about poetry, nature and life. Ages 5 plus.
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