Polka Dot Poems

Polka Dot Poems
Zaro Weil, illustrated by Lucy Wynne
Troika

Among Zaro Weil’s 100 nature haiku you’ll meet all manner of weird and wonderful beasties large and small from all over the world as well as flora of many sorts and other inanimate natural things too. I encountered several creatures that are new to me, one of which is the Fossa

another is Zebra duiker ( an antelope residing in the rainforests of the western coasts of Africa) ‘ black-striped / best mates / meander under /green canopy of /gold-striped / sun ‘.

Equally worthy of our attention though is this common or garden oh so bountiful Thistle ‘seeds for birds / leaves for bugs / fluff for nests / nectar-spiked / flowered // giving plant’.

Another is Spider – ‘smart / spinning your own paths / criss-crossing the cosmos / thin thread / by / thin thread’.

Among the inanimate yet brought to life through words is something we’ve all experienced countless times – the coming of a new day: Light ‘oh! / I remember you / morning sun-great / all a-whirl / through my window’.

In stark contrast using the same number of syllables is this contemplation of a Goblin shark, ‘ancient living fish/ your sword mouth/ parts water/ swims through/ millions of years’. Who would not be awed by this ferocious creature sometimes called a ‘living fossil’?

Again, using just seventeen syllables each time, Zaro draws attention to things ever present in our lives such as Pebble ‘so many pebbles / so many years / quietly crunching / underfoot’ and Moon – ‘palest puff / in / just-night sky / that you? // of course / I spy your / crescent wisp’.

No matter where they open this book young readers will find something to delight in; something of which Zaro in her wonderful words has captured its very essence, while Lucy Wynne brings out the gentle humour and playfulness of the writing in her gorgeous illustrations.

Don’t miss the extras – there’s a concluding section of ‘amazing facts about some of the weird and wonderful creatures’ including the Patagonian mara, the Venezuelan poodle moth and the star-nosed mole – wonderful creatures all.

When Poems Fall from the Sky

When Poems Fall from the Sky
Zara Weil, Illustrated by Junli Song
ZaZa Kids

During the past year and a half a great many of us have found that walking in nature has both uplifted and calmed us: when we’ve so badly needed a boost, nature has been there for us inviting us to slow right down or stop and let the flora and fauna work their magic. As we read this treasure of a book, Zara Weil reminds us of those sights and sounds and introduces the joys of many others in this mix of poems, rhymes, haiku, raps, story poems and short plays, that were inspired by Kew Gardens where the poet spent time fairly recently; and having worked in the Kew herbarium on a gap year I can totally understand how Kew made her feel.

It’s clear that the poet observes with all her senses as she gently nudges and occasionally urges readers to see things differently, to discover new ways to look, feel and listen. She helps us to fine tune our ears to the various voices of nature that she has heard including that of a Butterfly’s Song, various birds such as a nightingale, and the Jay that acts its part along with Oak in That’s what friends are for – what delight this would give children taking on those roles in a read aloud, and a wonderful learning experience too.

The same is true of another ‘Mother Nature Production’ Oh Happy Day – a fig and wasp play that is a celebration of the amazing pollination partnership between wasps and fig trees.

It’s impossible to choose an utmost favourite in this collection but as a life-long lover of trees I was struck by the way Zaro captures their wonder and their ability to hold memories in Tree’s Story; ‘for who else still breathing / has been a part of long ago / who else / holds it written in / rings of memory / for anyone to read / in the far future ‘ – in those lines too (and throughout) is a reminder of our interconnectedness.

For its sheer exuberance and sheer delight in playful language, I absolutely relished Bug Parade with its ten quintillion minibeasts – ‘They whizzed by all zipping / glittering then flittering / diving and gliding / whoops sometimes colliding’. Brilliant!

Certainly a poem to make you laugh and perhaps, dance; but there are also poems to move you within, others to make you care and to think deeply.

Surely though, every one is a demonstration of the fact that in nature there is SO much to cherish and to wonder at; it’s as though nature itself has been given voice herein to give hope, to guide us ever to watch, to listen and to remember our role as guardians and stewards of our awesome planet.

Thoughtfully and beautifully illustrated by Junli Song, this is a must have book to cherish and return to over and over.

Cherry Moon

Cherry Moon
Zaro Weil, illustrated by Junli Song
ZaZaKids Books

I was over the moon (cherry and otherwise) to receive a copy of Zaro Weil’s latest poetry book. It’s subtitled ‘Little Poems Big Ideas Mindful of Nature’.

Little in length, some might be, but little in impact? – definitely not; not even the very shortest haikus.

It’s nigh on impossible to choose favourites from the round about 100 offerings so I’ll start with one – Story Time Orchestra – that in essence for me sums up this entire collection:
a story time orchestra / lives inside my book / and when I open / to my favourite part // everyone starts to play’.

Play is what Zaro does in her writing –she plays with ideas, plays with words, plays with language and plays with nature itself, painting wonderful word pictures in the mind. Try reading the tongue twisting ‘Preposterous penguins’, an elaborate alliterative poem that beings thus: ’thousands / of preposterously pensive penguins / pause to participate / in a particularly polar poetry pageant’.

Many poems are interpreted through Junli Song’s stylish, almost stylised illustrations.

Unsurprisingly the elements feature in a fair few of the poems: I’ll never walk again along the muddy cycle track behind my home in the rain without thinking of ‘Mudpuddling Tonight’ that portrays so perfectly the experience of welly walking near Stroud on a rainy evening; and it will certainly help lift the spirits:
mudpuddling tonight / sloshgurgling / all the way home through / a well-shined slipstream of / a million and one raindrops / lit by / a million and one moondots’.

This is assuredly a terrific collection and one to encourage readers, young and not so young, to open wide their eyes and sharpen all their senses to the wonderful world of nature waiting to be discovered in the great outdoors from early morning to late at night and all through the seasons.

Enchantment through and through.

Firecrackers

Firecrackers
Zaro Weil illustrated by Jo Riddell
ZaZa Kids Books

I was sent a taster of this wonderful book last year and since then have eagerly anticipated the finished collection so I was thrilled when it finally arrived. It was certainly worth the wait.

It absolutely fizzes and zizzes with over ninety different delights – poems short (some such as Cherry blossoms less than a dozen words
Cherry blossoms / are quiet / unlike frogs /leaping to every / raindrop

and long – Dinosaur site for instance, and haiku.

I love this Nightingale’s haiku in particular:
Hidden / I woo the night / note by note till / galaxies twirl / stars applaud

There is also a sprinkling of short plays and fairy tales.

There’s child appeal in spades from the words alone but Jo Riddell’s splendid black and white illustrations add to the enjoyment; they’re thoughtful and are perfectly in balance with the writing.

I strongly believe that poetry should be part of every child’s daily experience: teachers there is something for all moods and tastes herein and once you start reading this book with a group of children they’ll keep on demanding ‘just one more’.

Equally it’s perfect for the family bookshelf, to set imaginations soaring during the day or to send a child off into dreamworlds of ‘sun-dotted butterflies’, ‘fruit trees in pastel puffs’ and Shivering crickets.