I must say, haiku books are some of my favorites. With the popularity of haiku for kids, some fabulous haiku books are coming out that are kid-friendly. Two of my new favorites are Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku by Paul B. Janeczko and J. Patrick Lewis—two poetry-for-kid kings--and Today and Today haiku by Issa, haiku orginalist, with illustrations by G. Brian Karas.
These books, while both aimed at kids, and both haiku collections, are truly at different ends of the haiku spectrum. That’s why I love these books. They both make haiku accessible to kids, but they show how different and how fun haiku can be.
Today and Today has just been released by Scholastic Press. Issa, is one of the haiku poets from Japan, where haiku originated. He wrote these poems in the late 1700s. This book is made up of very old poems. But they have been translated and illustrated and brought to life for the modern day child.
G. Brian Karas’ illustrations bring these ancient poems alive through his beautiful nature paintings. They are divided up by season, and since haiku are usually about nature, this is very appropriate.
My favorite is a summer haiku:
So many breezes
wander through my summer room:
but never enough
These poems give kids great examples of haiku that really follow the essence of what a haiku is: about nature, capturing one moment, simplistic. These poems, all fabulous, are only enhanced by G. Brian Karas’ illustrations.
On the other end of the spectrum, Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku by Paul Janeczko and J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Tricia Tusa, celebrate the fun in haiku. This book came out last spring (2006). These haiku do not follow the traditionalist approach where haiku are written about a moment in nature. They follow the pattern of a haiku, but they are jokes, plays on words, riddles, and laugh-out loud funny.
In fact, when I read this out loud to my classroom of fourth graders, there were many laughs, but they were delayed reactions. These are poems that kids “get”, but they have to think about it for a minute. Then they say, “Oh, I get it. (pause) That’s hilarious!” I love that delay because it sometimes just takes them a minute to “get it” and think outside the box.
Noah Webster had
no choice except to put
the cart before the horse
This book is a good romp for introducing the short fun of haiku, or allowing kids to chew on after they have spent some time studying traditional haiku. They can see how it can be fun to play with a poetic form and give it a twist. The illustrations by Tricia Tusa also give the book a playful mood. The illustrations are wild, bright watercolors with lots of details. They also help kids “get” the poem on more than one level. They definitely add another layer to think about.