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Diane Dawber
Illustrated by Pat Wilkinson
(Ont.), Quarry Press, 1991. 64pp, galley, ISBN 1-55082-010-9 (cloth) $14.95
ISBN 1-55082-011-7 (paper) $8.95. CIP


Reviewed by Maryleah Otto.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Diane Dawber is a teacher-librarian who is also a highly praised educator and award-winning poet. She has consulted for the Ontario Ministry of Education and has presented workshops and readings through the League of Canadian Poets and CANSCAIP. In the October 1987 issue of Quill & Quire she was profiled as one of a group of top ten teachers who inspire children to read.

This work is aimed at the parent or teacher who wants to introduce children from six to twelve to the fun of writing poetry. The poems are absolutely charming and even the short "how to" passages will catch the interest of young readers. Dawber believes that poetry should do more than just play with language; it should deal with emotions and important things in a person's life. Writing poetry is also an exercise in problem solving, because it makes the writer collect, compare, sift, structure and sequence information.

The first section of the book, "King Crayfish and Other Human Video Poems," is all about imaging. The child is to think of his or her mind as a video camera, scanning a whole scene or zooming in on a detail, and deciding whether a sight, sound, taste, smell or thought is the most important feature of the poem.

The second section, "Harmonica Howls and Other Sound Track Poems," deals with voices and speech patterns. Here Dawber shows how the writer can use open verse, upper and lower case letters, spaces and punctuation marks to represent sounds realistically. There are three technical terms that will need to be explained for children: limerick, couplet and acrostic. The real strength of the poems lies in their child appeal. Dawber knows exactly why squishing a bug, twirling in a favourite dress, worrying about making a phone call, having stage fright or being mean to a younger sister are all topics to which children will eagerly relate.

In the third section, "Exploding Comparisons," Dawber shows how to examine differences and similarities in various situations, for example, a cat and a pair of socks as sparring partners, or an attractive versus an unattractive role in a school play, or a cat and a human who are each sprayed by a skunk, and the delightful "Mount Crash" that begins "Oh my knee is a map, Of my stumblebum life," in which a child's knee is likened to a mountain and all the bumps and scrapes are places.

The final section, "The Floating Concrete Kraken and Other Magic Shapes," introduces more difficult technical devices like a diamante, cinquain, ballad and limerick, as well as antonyms and synonyms, the use of rhyming dictionaries and a thesaurus.

Thirty-one poems illustrate the author's presentation. Pat Wilkinson's cartoon-style drawings complement the themes. Teachers of grades 1 to 6 will find a valuable language resource tool in this book. For parents and children, it will inspire a wonderful new "game."

Maryleah Otto, St. Thomas Public Library, St. Thomas, Ont.
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