Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Baird, Audrey B. 2002. A cold snap! Frosty poems. Illus. by Patrick O’Brien. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.

This assignment was to review a favorite book of poetry published since the year 2000. I am glad we were not asked to review our most favorite, but simply “a” favorite book, as I would still be standing at the poetry shelf trying to decide what to do in the former case. I chose this book because I felt that the poems are high in quality; they evoke a variety of moods, thoughts, and emotions; the book is beautifully and appropriately illustrated by Patrick O’Brien; and I really enjoyed the poet’s voice and take on the subject matter. It also probably helps that I tend to be a little nostalgic about cold weather and winter, since I am a displaced Kentuckian (who also used to live in Idaho and North Dakota) living in Texas.

One of my favorite poems in the book is the first one, “Caution,” (p. 6 & 7) and would be very hard to reproduce in the way it appears in the book, since there are some special font effects. It begins as follows:


Put on
a sweater
to read
this book.

Don’t leave
the door open.

Turn up the

Grab an

Words like
balmy, warm,
and mild
won’t have
a chance here.

Words like

and cold
this book.

Later it reads:


Be careful
using this

It could
nip the nose
of neighboring

to ice…

Another favorite poem is “Trees and Me” (p. 10) It is in the first part of the book with several other poems about how winter starts. Later the poems are about the experience of the middle of winter.

“Trees and Me”

Trees undress
in November,

their clothes
where they stand.

I wonder if
Mother Nature
shakes her head
and says,

and underwear

like my mother does.

I think children would really relate to this poem, even ELL students. It has humor to it, but it is the kind that everyone understands: it is funny because it is true (almost all mothers scold their children for making a mess).

There are more serious poems in the book, like “Leaving the Library,” on page 14, and “Weather Term,” on page 16, while many of the poems are very nostalgic, like “A Ritual,” on page 17, about taking winter clothes down from storage.” One more poem worth sharing has such great imagery and sounds to it; it begs to be read aloud (as if all poems didn’t). This is “The Traveler,” from page 21:

“The Traveler”

Ravenous and savage
from its long
polar journey,

the North Wind

is searching
for food—

and wild to find
shelter tonight.

Starved, it


on my house
until the roof

wail down
my chimney.

Frigid, it


at my

trying to
its way in,



at eight o’clock,

spent and

it wraps around
my chimney
with a


when Dad
builds a fire.

The book has a very attractive layout as well. It has a table of contents at the front, which I always appreciate for finding poems again. Then, almost all of the poems are printed on white paper, with either small illustrations on the same page or opposite larger ones. This helps there never to be too much or too little white space around the poem. In addition, the pictures really highlight the content of the poems so well. For example, the poem, “The Traveler,” reproduced above, is accompanied by a painting of a weathervane being whipped about by the cold, winter wind. My favorite illustration is on the last page with the poem “Add It Up.” The poem is just one line: “A soft feather quilt + a raw wintry night = sleeping, polar-bear warm. The illustration, which covers the entire page (the poem is printed in white text at the top of it) shows a bed with a white down quilt over it and the top of a child’s head peeking over the edge. At the foot of the bed, the bedspread sort of turns into a sleeping polar bear. The dark blue sky is filled with stars and snow, which are falling on the bed and the bear. It is beautiful.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for poems about this topic, especially the anticipation or approaching of winter. The poems are well-written and the book presents them very nicely.

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