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Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems Hardcover – March 4, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3–6—This appealing collection based on fairy tales is a marvel to read. It is particularly noteworthy because the poems are read in two ways: up and down. They are reverse images of themselves and work equally well in both directions. "Mirror Mirror" is chilling in that Snow White, who is looking after the Seven Dwarves, narrates the first poem of the pair. Read in reverse, it is the wicked queen who is enticing Snow White to eat the apple that will put her to sleep forever. "In the Hood" is as crafty as the wolf who tells of his delightful anticipation of eating Red Riding Hood. The mirrored poem is Red Riding Hood reminding herself not to dally since Grandma awaits. The vibrant artwork is painterly yet unfussy and offers hints to the characters who are narrating the poems. An endnote shows children how to create a "reverse" poem. This is a remarkably clever and versatile book that would work in any poetry or fairy-tale unit. A must-have for any library.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
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*Starred Review* This ingenious book of reversos, or poems which have one meaning when read down the page and perhaps an altogether different meaning when read up the page, toys with and reinvents oh-so-familiar stories and characters, from Cinderella to the Ugly Duckling. The five opening lines of the Goldilocks reverso read: “Asleep in cub’s bed / Blonde / startled by / Bears, / the headline read.” Running down the page side-by-side with this poem is a second, which ends with: “Next day / the headline read: / Bears startled / by blonde / asleep in cub’s bed.” The 14 pairs of poems—easily distinguished by different fonts and background colors—allow changes only in punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks, as Singer explains in an author’s note about her invented poetic form. “It is a form that is both challenging and fun—rather like creating and solving a puzzle.” Singer also issues an invitation for readers to try to write their own reversos on any topic. Matching the cleverness of the text, Masse’s deep-hued paintings create split images that reflect the twisted meaning of the irreverently witty poems and brilliantly employ artistic elements of form and shape—Cinderella’s clock on one side morphs to the moon on the other. A must-purchase that will have readers marveling over a visual and verbal feast. Grades 2-5. --Patricia Austin
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Top Customer Reviews
Better flip to the back of the book (how appropriate!) if you want an explanation of what's going on here. Says the last page, "We read most poems down a page. But what if we read them up?" Calling such poems "reversos", Singer's concept is simple. Each poem is repeated. The one on the left is read down. Then Singer takes the same words, puts in some slightly different punctuation, and when each line is read backwards it tells an entirely new story. The stories in this book are fairy tales and Singer not only tells the tales frontwards and backwards but gives them new stories too. The ugly duckling, for example, has some doubts of his own potential beauty. In his upbeat poem he says confidently, "Plain to see - / look at me. / A beauty I'll be." Then doubts set in and he sighs, "A beauty I'll be? / Look at me - / plain to see." One of the smartest books out there for kids, young readers will be entranced by Singer's wordplay and Masse's lovely (if not equally clever) illustrations.
When I first heard of a "reverso" I thought it meant a poem where every single word is backwards when it repeats. Fortunately, Singer has no wish to drive herself bonkers. It's not every word that's backwards, but lines. This makes for great wordplay, and some creative solutions. My favorite is the poem that I think also comes across as the cleverest. "In the Hood" is a Little Red Riding Hood take. It's short, so I can write it in full here. On the Little Red side of the equation it reads, "In my hood / skipping through the wood / carrying a basket / picking berries to eat - / juicy and sweet / what a treat! / But a girl / mustn't dawdle. / After all, Grandma's waiting." The wolf replies, "After all, Grandma's waiting, / mustn't dawdle . . . / But a girl! / What a treat - / juicy and sweet, / picking berries to eat, / carrying a basket, / skipping through the wood / in my `hood."
Alas, not every poem is equally strong. I found I was a little baffled by the Rapunzel verses, since I couldn't figure out who was telling each of the two poems. Generally speaking, though, these glitches are the exception rather than the rule. And if you don't care for one poem, you're bound to think another is fantastic.
Most folks will probably look at the pictures here and assume that illustrator Josee Masse utilizes a kind of paint on wood technique similar to the work of Stefano Vitale. Not the case, I assure you. According to her editor, "she painted the pieces of art with acrylic paint on illustration board. She uses an undercoat of acrylic which is what gives the texture . . . . Then she builds up colors on top of that". These puppies clearly took serious work to make. What I like about the pictures too is how well she has split the pictures that accompany the poems into two mirror-like images. Their details reflect how well Masse has understood the text too. For example, in the poem "Do You Know My Name?" the girl from the Rumpelstiltskin story laments that even though she's the beloved heroine, no one ever knows her name. On the opposite page we see the little man dancing beside a fire that burns his name into smoke, while on the other side that smoke has turned into golden thread that spells out nothing at all. Extra points to Masse for taking the time to draw a correct bobbin on a spinning wheel too. Most artists of that story don't take the time (Paul Zelinsky being an exception).
I can't help but think that with the success of this book Singer and Masse will simply have to give in to the demands of their fans and do a sequel of sorts. Why, they could take nursery rhymes in the second! Then classic children's books in the third. Then famous women from history, tall tales, presidents, the list goes on and on. For now, though, we can enjoy this single Reverso collection, possibly the first of its kind for kids. Beautiful both as object and as a way of getting kids interested in poetic forms, this is a must purchase for any library or home collection. One of a kind.
Each poem is readable frontwards and backwards, with each line acting as its own unit. (This means some of the lines are quite short, of course.)
And the front and the back version of each poem tells the fairy tale from a different perspective. My favorite? The Hansel and Gretel one:
Fatten up, boy!
like prime rib?
Then your hostess, she will roast you
Have another chocolate.
Eat another piece of gingerbread.
When you hold it out,
keep her waiting...
Keep her waiting.
when you hold it out.
Eat another piece of gingerbread,
Have another chocolate -
Then your hostess, she will roast you
like prime rib.
fatten up, boy!
Yes, you need this one for your personal library. I've enjoyed it myself as an adult without a child present but also anticipate using it with children in the future.
This one can be enjoyed for mere entertainment alone, but it has so many possible applications for teaching and learning, too. It's a "must own" for any school or public library. I haven't been this excited about a picture book in a while and will be shocked if this one isn't in high contention for a Caldecott and other honors over the coming year.
Very, very clever. Most importantly, the kids really enjoy it.