Monday, June 1, 2009

Review #30: A Curious Collection of Cats

Isaac (age 10):  "A Curious Collection of Cats"
Gracie (age 8):  This book is fun!
Isaac:  It has lots of cats and lots of colors.
Lily (age 6):  A whole universe of cats.
Dad:  The cover says "Concrete Poems by Betsy Franco."  Do you know what a concrete poem is?
Gracie:  No.
Dad:  Let's think about "concrete."
Isaac:  It's cement.
Gracie:  You make things with it.
Isaac:  You put it on the ground to make sidewalks and roads.
Dad:  And buildings and sculptures... all different shapes.  Concrete is the material that makes them up.
Isaac:  So for a concrete poem, you make the poem into different shapes.  Or build the words into parts of things.
Dad:  Are the words in these pages laid out in a normal succession from top to bottom?
Gracie:  No.
Lily:  There are pictures with words inside them.  And sometimes the words hook onto part of the picture.
Dad:  In a concrete poem, what the words say is important, obviously.  But the way the words are arranged on the page is equally important.  They can twist, follow paths, form shapes.  Concrete poems acknowledge the "physical material" - the words - that make them up.  Where the words fall is just as significant as what they say.  That's a concrete poem.
Isaac:  Like, one of the lines says "Falling upside down" and it is written upside down.
Dad:  Good one!  What are some other examples?
Isaac:  In "Rascal's Tongue" the words are about a tongue, and the words ARE a tongue.  And they are pink.
Dad:  Same with "Tabitha's Tail."  The words are about the tail...
Gracie:  But the words also make the tail.
Isaac:  They are all twisted around.
Lily:  Another poem has a cat spitting out a hairball-thingie.
Dad:  And the words made the path of the hairball.
Gracie:  Yeck!
Dad:  The illustrations are by Michael Wertz.  So his job in crafting these poems was just as important as Betsy Franco's job, huh?  He's not just making supplemental pictures off to the side.  He's 'sculpting' the actual poem.  Giving it form.
Gracie:  It's poetry stacked on colorful cats!
Isaac:  Oh no.
Dad:  What?
Isaac:  I just realized...  We're all going to have to make a concrete poem about a cat for our review...
Dad:  Ha ha ha ha...  Yep.
Isaac:  This is going to be difficult.
Dad:  I bet you'll have fun.
Isaac:  I'm doomed.
Dad:  You're not doomed.  Come on, dude.  If it's too hard, you don't have to make a picture.  But at least have fun trying.
Gracie:  Yah-hoo!
Isaac:  I'm horrible at poems.
Dad:  We've never tried this!  Concrete poems may be your favorite thing ever, after we try!
Lily:  Daddy, I have a favorite poem.  I looooove "Shadow's Dream."  It's so cool!
Dad:  That one is beautiful.  There were some gross poems in here too.
Kids:  Yes!!!
Gracie:  Hairballs...  drinking from the toilet...  peeing on people's hats...
Lily:  Eating a fish cake.
Dad:  Those poems will probably be kids' favorites...
Gracie:  Yeah... hee hee hee!
Lily:  We like gross things.  Oo-hooey.
Dad:  Let me ask you about one more specific poem.  Who does Wide Veronica remind you of?
Lily:  Fat Cat!
Gracie:  She's our Nana's cat.
Isaac:  It also reminds me of Pumpkin, Sam's cat.
Dad:  Sam's cat is fat now too?
Gracie:  Very fat.
Dad:  Fatter than Fat Cat?
Gracie:  No way!  There's no cat that's fatter than Fat Cat.
Lily:  She could beat a bulldog in a fight.
Isaac:  Pumpkin is probably second place.  He has tons of fat that wobbles when he walks.  It jiggles around.
Dad:  We don't get to see Fat Cat wobble around too much, do we?
Gracie:  She mostly hides and growls.  We love her anyway.
Dad:  She used to be tiny once upon a time, before you all were born.  Mom and I babysat her when she was a kitten, and she jumped into our Christmas tree and hid.  Imagine what would happen to a Christmas tree if she jumped into it now!
Isaac:  HA HAH HA HA HA!!!
Dad:  Did Michael Wertz use realistic colors in this book?
Gracie:  No.  And that's okay.
Lily:  Some of the cats are pink cats.
Isaac:  It almost looks like layered tissue paper.
Gracie:  The colors are cool.
Dad:  Now, people who have cats would like this book...
Isaac:  I recommend Nana reading this book.
Dad: ...but what about us?  We didn't know that much about cats beforehand, but what did we learn from reading this?
Gracie:  Some cats can have six toes!
Lily:  And they eat spiders.  Mommy would freak out about that.
Isaac:  They have different personalities.
Lily:  Yeah, some of them like to kiss.
Isaac:  Some of them sleep and hide.
Gracie:  Some are shy.
Dad:  Some are brave.
Gracie:  And some of them pee on people's hats.
Dad:  Does this book make you want to get a cat or not?
Gracie:  I want to get a kitten that doesn't drink from toilet bowls.
Dad:  Kittens don't stay kittens.  They grow up to be...
Gracie:  Plump!

My cat May plays with Jerry
in the month of February
-- by Gracie

My kitten has a mitten that got bitten
-- by Lily

When people visited me
my cat jumped up the tree
And when she got FAT
the tree went splat
-- by Isaac

Good poems guys! (You too Isaac!)

Author: Betsy Franco
Illustrator: Michael Wertz
Published, 2009: Tricycle Press
Like it? Find it


Rebecca Gomez said...

Looks like a very fun book!

Anonymous said...

This is simply delightful!

You guys made my day. I'll be re-blogging this soon.

Thank you! I'm so glad you all enjoyed the book, and were inspired to create yuor own concrete poetry (and illustrations to boot)!

All best, Michael Wertz

Carrie said...

I love the color and design on the front cover. I can't say I'm particularly fond of cats, but the way you describe it, it sounds rather cute.

ElizT said...

Sometimes I feed an old cat called Lucy who has six toes on her front paws, when her family goes away. She scuffs along as though wearing slippers.
Years ago, before the children were born Lucy flew all the way from Boston to live here in Auckland New Zealand.

Sara said...

I'm going to have to show this post to my daughter's cat, Astrid! Fabulous work. :)

Ed DeCaria said...

(Sorry to comment on something so old, but it is new to me.)

You already know this, but this is such a great blog format. You are an inspiration and I hope that I can mimic this idea once my own kids are a bit older. In the meantime, my (NEW!) blog readers must settle for my own childish rants.