• Happy birthday Frank Remkiewicz (Horrible Harry series).
  • It’s the birth date of Anne Sullivan (1866-1936), who worked with Helen Keller and assisted Keller in writing The Story of My Life, and Robert Lopshire (1927-2002), Put Me in the Zoo.
  • In 1828, Noah Webster copyrights the first edition of his dictionary.
  • The epic and controversial classic, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, was published in 1939. Read other John Steinbeck books as well, The Red Pony and The Pearl.
  • It’s National Pecan Day. Read Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

April is, of course, National Poetry Month, and there is good news to report this year. For a period of time, well-chosen and well-illustrated poetry compilations were as rare as hen’s teeth in the children’s book world, mainly because of the costs of poetry permissions. But recently, thanks to the success of poetry picture books, we have been getting some poetry anthologies worth cheering for.

Such is our title of the day, a 2014 title Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poem, with poems selected by Paul B. Janeszko and illustratred by Melissa Sweet. In an oversized, dazzling volume, the book takes readers through the four seasons with short gems that take full advantage of a few, well-chosen words.

J. Patrick Lewis’s provides title poem—“When I was ten, one summer night,/the baby stars that leapt./Among the trees like dimes of light,/I cupped and capped, and kept.” In twenty-five words he conjures up, a summer’s eve. Lillian Morrison uses a mere twelve words for her entry, “The Island”: “Wrinkled stone/like an elephant’s skin/on which young birches are treading.”

All the entries show how the choice of a single word or image can help create a poem to be lingered over. The selections include the very familiar works of poets like William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”—“so much depends/upon/a red wheel/barrow/glazed with rain/water/besides the white/ chickens”—or Carl Sandburg’s “Fog.” But there are surprises in each of the four seasons: In Fall, readers are treated to Bruce Balan’s “Moonlight”: “Is/that/a/silver/spoon/hanging/below the/clouds/or/just/ moonlight?”

The excellence of the poetry alone would lead me to encourage all children’s book lovers to pick up the volume. But that is only half of the book’s beauty. Melissa Sweet (oh, when will she finally win a Caldecott?) has added her magic to ever page in compositions of watercolor, gouache, and mixed media. Just as the poems can be pored over again and again, so can the illustrations, which contain sly details to delight the visually literate. The entire package (text, art, design, and production) make Firefly July the kind of offering you don’t just want to borrow from a library, but that you really want to own.

So if you want to celebrate National Poetry Month or a Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 17), or just enjoy a great children’s book, pick up Firefly July.

Here’s a page from Firefly July:



Originally posted April 14, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Poetry, Seasons
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems


  1. I love this book!

  2. G. Perry says:

    This looks fantastic.

    Got it ordered from the library.

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