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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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*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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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.
These illustrations are so brilliant that I'm contemplating buying a second copy of the book, removing the pages and framing them - they're that good. I'm just not sure I can myself to damage a book in that way. I've looked at some of Josee Masse's illustrations online and I really like her style, both for kids and adults.
Marilyn Singer's poems themselves are a mixed bag. The concept itself - creating a poem that can be read both forward and backward - is ingenious. Perhaps the best example is the one Ms. Singer presents on the last page - her own first attempt: "A cat/without/a chair:/Incomplete." vs. "Incomplete:/A chair/without/a cat." Although the words are the same, they present a different perspective or even a completely different meaning when read in reverse.
Applying this concept to fairy tales, in which there are often two different characters with different perspectives, is also brilliant. Some of the poems in this book are pitch-perfect. For instance, "In the Hood" does a delightful job of presenting both Little Red's perspective and the Big Bad Wolf's perspective. The reverso, however, doesn't necessarily have to present the perspectives of two different characters. In "The Doubtful Duckling", for instance, both sides of the poem are from the Duckling's perspective, but each gives a different outlook on his transformation to beautiful swan. The Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast poems, along with the final poem ("The Road") are also all very well done.
Not all the poems work so well, however. The two halves of "Mirror Mirror", for example, seem to be saying the same thing. I'm not even sure who the narrator of either side is supposed to be - the Queen for both? "Full of Beans" is similar in that reversing the poem does not significantly change the meaning or perspective of the poem. "Disappointment" (the Princess and the Frog) and "Rapunzel's Locks" are confusing because they don't even seem to follow the story line of the actual fairy tale. Rapunzel doesn't cut her own hair - the enchantress does. And I don't recall anything in "The Princess and the Frog" about a second kiss.
Nevertheless, the beautiful artwork, the poetic concept, and the reversos that do work well lead me to highly recommend this book. I don't, however, recommend it for kids as young as 4 as indicated on Amazon's product review. I don't really think that most kids will appreciate this book until they are able to read, so they can understand the concept of reading up and down the page. Also, kids have to have at least the beginnings of abstract thinking to understand the different perspectives of the reversos. My own four-year-old (who is generally pretty perceptive) was utterly baffled by the book. I'll probably put it away for a year or two and see how her perception changes.
This is a great mentor text for point of view or for poetry, but it is also just a fun read. This author has a new book of reverso poems coming out in 2013- I can't wait!