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Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word Paperback – March 19, 2013
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*Starred Review* As in previous titles, such as Snowy, Blowy Winter (2008) and Summer Wonders (2009), Raczka offers an accessible, playful poetry collection. This time, each selection is both a poem and a puzzle. As the whimsical subtitle states, every entry begins with a single-word title whose letters, when rearranged, make up the words in the following lines, as in “Bleachers”: “Ball / reaches / here / bases / clear / cheers.” Each poem appears twice: first, the letters, printed in an old-fashioned, typewriter font, are scattered individually across an open background, and readers must piece them together to make words. On the following page, the words are set in more traditional, easily read lines. “Pepperoni,” for example, begins with swirling, unconnected letters that resemble ingredients being sprinkled onto a pizza’s surface; on the next page, the letters are arranged in short lines: “One / pie / no / pepper / onion.” Doniger’s spare illustrations add quirky appeal without distracting from the inventive formations of type. More than just clever gimmicks, the poems leave room for moving lines with a depth that invites imaginative wandering: “A / silent / lion / tells / an ancient / tale,” reads “Constellation.” Sure to have wide classroom appeal. Grades 2-5. --Gillian Engberg --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Doniger's spare illustrations add quirky appeal without distracting from the inventive formations of type. More than just clever gimmicks, the poems leave room for moving lines with a depth that invites imaginative wandering: ‘A / silent / lion / tells / an ancient / tale,' reads ‘Constellation.' Sure to have wide classroom appeal.” ―Starred, Booklist
“Readers of all ages will get a kick out of Bob Raczka's clever Lemonade . . . . This book will appeal to both poetry and puzzle lovers, no doubt motivating them to choose their own words and write some poems.” ―BookPage.com
“A clever, catchy, and challenging collection.” ―School Library Journal
“The lemonade here is cool and refreshing, and it makes you want to do some squeezing yourself in this playground where poet meets Scrabble nerd.” ―Horn Book
“Fun as a prompt for poetic exploration.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“This will be a natural as an inspiration for language arts assignments that appeal both to the wordily creative and the code-loving.” ―Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Raczka's poems are all produced from the letters in single words, magnifying and playing on their meanings . . . . there's a subtle humor and power at work in many ("friend" reads simply "fred/ finds/ ed"), and readers may be spurred to construct their own.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Raczka's Lemonade and other poems squeezed from one word will really kick the language arts curriculum up a notch. His poems turn traditional ideas of poetry upside down with word puzzles and word play. Each poem is like a mini-brainstorming session of new words and new ideas. It's a given that students will love creating their own one word poems about topics that they enjoy. Anyone who likes Wheel of Fortune, Hangman, or any sort of word game is going to adore this book.” ―Sally Walker, Anderson's Bookshop
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Raczka credits Andrew Russ for his introduction to this one-word poetry form and explains how each letter appears beneath the letter of the original word. The overall effect is that of looking at a stuttering typewriter, or letters falling down like rain, forming words. There's a look to these poems almost like concrete poetry, with the careful typography proving that no additional letters have snuck in. It also means that each poem is a bit of a challenge - words and sentences aren't necessarily spaced in a traditional way. I think kids will love puzzling out what each poem says. Each poem is presented in its' original format, with a 2-color (red and black) line drawing on one page, followed by a page in red with white type, deciphering the poem in a more traditional way.
Here is one of my favorite poems in the book:
Simple, spare, effective and so true! I think this book would work well in classrooms, and I'd love to see the kind of one-word poems that this book will inspire. I highly recommend this amazing work.
Take a word. Now find as many words as you can out of that word. Now take those words and make a cohesive, coherent, and downright good poem. Impossible? Not if you ask Bob Raczka. Inspired by poet Andrew Russ's "one-word poems", Raczka manages to find and write twenty-two such poems. Sometimes they are short (the poem "friends" really just boils down to "fred finds ed"). Sometimes they are longer than you'd expect ("spaghetti" starts with "papa has a pasta appetite"). And in each poem you have to read the letters as they appear under their starting words on one page, and then in order as a normal poem on the next. A clever literary technique yields even cleverer little poems. This is a premise that surpasses its initial gimmick.
There are few books I have encountered that give you the feeling that you're learning to read all over again. This is one of the few. Just reading a single poem, no matter how short, can be a challenge. Because the letters drop down to appear under their respective letters in the title, they do not fall into natural spaces or breaks. The result is that you might read the words "ivan in / ava in / ian in" instead as "ivan in a vain". It almost feels like code breaking after a while (a not unpleasant sensation). Another advantage of the format is that certain poems mimic their subject matter. The poem "moonlight", for example, mimics its subject, a moth, flitting in concentric circles down a page.
If you're tired of the old haiku you could do worse than to try blackout poems where you take newspaper articles and black out with a magic marker everything but a few words. Or how about spine poetry, where you create poems out of the titles of books piled on top of one another? Raczka's one-sentence poems are inspired by a fellow by the name of Andrew Russ. Yet while Russ may have come up with the notion of making poems from common letters, it was Raczka who recognized the real kid-potential of the form. As a result, I suspect that "Lemonade" is not going to be the last one-sentence children's book of poetry we ever encounter in our lifetimes. It may, however, turn out to be the best.
The technique Russ has come up with is, in a sense, a kind of natural derivation of those school assignments kids are given in school where they are given a vocabulary word and told to make as many words out of it as possible (as a kid my husband was told that the word "id" would not count since "it wasn't a real word"). I imagine that schools still do this assignment, so how much harder would it be to follow in Russ and Raczka's footsteps and to take such assignments one step further saying, "Now turn those words into a poem"? Not hard at all.
The question of how to illustrate such a book is a puzzlement best left in the hands of capable editors. Considering that Raczka's last book was a collection of haikus ("GUYKU") and that this one is only slightly less sparse and spare, less may be more. The words are the star of the show here. Acknowledging this, the book places each poem with the black title and red poetry against a white background. Turn the page and the page becomes red, the words of the poem neat and orderly in little white rows. The illustrator tapped to fill some of these pages with art of her own is one Nancy Doniger, previously best known for creating the art for Sharon Taberski's "Morning, Noon, and Night" (another book of poetry) and "Gingersnaps" by Anita Alexander and Susan Payne. These books came out in 1998 and 1996 respectively, so it's clear that Ms. Doniger has had other things on her plate in the interim. In this book Doniger's palette is limited to black and red watercolor spot illustrations. The art itself keeps itself distinct from the poems. It never overpowers them or even, for that matter, really does anything to catch your eye. These pictures serve as mere filler, leaving the words the true star of the show. A person can read this whole book cover to cover and not remember a single image when they have finished. And that, quite frankly, is perfect for this kind of book.
When Poetry Month comes around kids get bombarded with the same haiku or the same limerick assignments over and over again. I like to believe that Mr. Raczka might do something to change all of that. His is a book that inspires. You almost want to take your own first and last name after reading it and make poems out of those letters yourself. So thank you, Mr. Raczka, for bringing to light a great new poetic format. For inspiring adults and kids alike to write and create. And for making my life all the harder, forcing me to throw laudatory compliments your way, just because you do what you do so well. For all that sir, I thank you.
For ages 4-10.