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Turn! Turn! Turn! (Book and CD) Hardcover – September 1, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5-This rich and thoughtful book uses beautifully detailed artwork to bring new life to a familiar song. On the first page, the verse is printed on an illustration of the Earth with the repeated word "Turn!" encircling it. The focus of each of the following spreads is a large circle filled with small pictures. The verses are set along the edges, with contrasting ideas on either side ("a time to be born" on the left, "a time to die" on the right). Done in watercolor and ink, each of the round illustrations creates a cohesive whole, while its many sections tell small stories and reveal truths. The gutter divides each wheel in two, delineating between the opposing ideas of the verses. The tiny, detailed drawings fan out in all directions, forcing readers to turn the book around to view them. Some spreads are more dramatic than others: "a time of war" is illustrated with stark reds and grays, jagged lines, and images of sad children behind barbed wire and warriors in action. The illustration for "a time of peace" has rounded lines and brighter colors, and shows youngsters of all races holding hands and people enjoying quiet moments. Many details will beg for discussion, like the image of a hooded figure throwing stones at two retreating individuals. Accompanied by a CD with versions of the song by Seeger and the Byrds, this is a book for all collections.
Jane Marino, Bronxville Public Library, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
K- Gr. 3. The words come from Ecclesiastes, the music from Pete Seeger, and Halperin provides distinctive artwork that truly fits the text. Halperin emphasizes the universality of the words in the book's design: a circle takes up most of each two-page spread; inside the circle are pictures of various shapes and sizes that illustrate the phrase printed on the side of the page. "A time to be born," in a half circle on the left, includes insets picturing an Asian mother playing with her baby; a father throwing his diapered son in the air; and, in a tiny square, a chick popping out of an egg. Some of the sentiments were more challenging to illustrate. "A time of hate," for instance, shows a child's foot kicking a dog, a swastika, and a mob. More inexplicably, there is also a picture of a bemused child with a gun and another showing two bucks locking horns, neither of which exactly says "hatred." Still, as kids inevitably turn the book around to see the art, they will find a lot to make them think. A CD of Seeger's song is enclosed. For another very different version of the text, pull out To Everything There Is a Season (1999), illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Ecclesiastes uses three Hebrew words for "turn" for a total of sixteen occurrences. Qoheleth (the author) usually uses it in the sense, "I turned to consider..." (e.g. 2:11). He turns to consider life sixteen times until it seems he is spinning as much as the wind as it blows around its endless cycles (1:6). "Turn" is a very important word in Ecclesiastes. I don't know if Pete Seeger knew that when he wrote this song. Maybe Seeger was thinking of the seasons returning and turning from one activity to another. Halperin catches this idea beautifully by means of many circles.
You know the words, right? So sing along! "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven". The original verses speak of "a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away", so this adaptation does the same. The book begins with an open door leading to a grassy place. Turn the page and you see a large circle, one half on each page with the circle's center falling into the center gutter. On the left page is a verse like, "a time to be born". Here we see all sorts of images that illustrate this concept. On the right hand side are the words, "a time to die". Ditto, death is shown in a variety of different ways. This continues throughout the book with a multitude of different races, religions, people, animals, places, and things bringing home every verse. The pictures continue until you get to a final two-page spread with the words, "A time to love, a time to hate; a time for peace, I swear it's not too late". Here we see kids playing in what we can only assume is the grassy place glimpsed through the door on the first page. Children play and frolic and play chess (???) while a border of kids from all over the world (with different abilities and disabilities) make a half-circle over the page. There's also a nice little shot of Mr. Seeger himself, recognizable banjo in hand. The book comes with a note at the end of, "Suggestions for How to Use This Book", which talks about the song's history, but not (surprisingly) how to actually use the book in a class setting or one-on-one with a child. There's a lovely accompanying cd of the original song with two versions on it. One is Seeger's original and the other is the Byrds song we all know so well.
The cd is a lovely touch and one that I wish more picture books would begin to include. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well with this kind of song. Usually cds are included with picture books when the book can be read along WITH the cd. In this case, the song is just too darn fast. These illustrations demand that the reader do a bit of lingering over them. People need to stop and examine Ms. Halperin's tiny tiny details. No cd is going to slow down to the point where you are able to do so (and if you continually pause it, it's just gonna mess up your enjoyment of the song). So there's that.
The most interesting thing about this book is really Ms. Halperin's interpretation of such weighty subjects as death, killing, war, and the like. She isn't afraid to go all over the world and pull from as many different human experiences (that are appropriate for children) as possible. At the same time, sometimes she gets a bit goofy. I guess I can't blame her. I mean, it's probably extremely difficult to fill a page with images of death without bumming the kids out right from the start. But why is one of the tiny death pictures of a blue winged fairy yawning? Halperin, for the most part, seems up to the task of making a variety of interesting references. Other times, she goes all goofy on you. "A time to cast away stones" shows two men (one looking oddly like Mr. Seeger, banjo tucked under his arm) running away from white hooded ghost-like people throwing stones. I looked at this picture and could not figure out why Muslim women were stoning the folksingers. Then I wondered if this was supposed to be the Klan. If so, where were the pointy hoods? Was this an actual incident that happened to Mr. Seeger once long ago? This isn't the only example of a completely random picture popping up on an otherwise interesting page. Halperin obviously got a little slap-happy after a while and would throw in a bizarre picture in the midst of her otherwise legit ones. It makes for occasionally odd reading.
The only real problem with this book (aside from the already discussed jolts of Dadaism) is that the pictures fall into the center of the book far too often. You can miss out on a lot if you don't spread your book dangerously apart (dangerous to the binding, I mean). I understand that the format of the work demands that these picture fall there, but I wish Halperin could have found a way to avoid it. Ah well. These objections, such as they are, stand small against what is otherwise a lovely and interesting little book. For offspring (or, dare I say, grandchildren) of the children of the 60's, this can make for fun family reading. Little children will adore findings something new on every page and parents will find some of the more difficult images (like a child fingering its parents' gun) a good way to discuss unpleasant subjects. Though it doesn't always work, I still recommend this to anyone who would like to instill in their child a sense of connection with the world around them. Lovely if flawed.
That said, he was looking at all the detailed pictures with me, and has already been asking for "Turn, Turn!" as one of his songs. So something hit the right note with my son.
Personally, I was drawn to the appropriateness of the mandala-style illustrations to the text. (I laughed a little at the fact that a Seeger-type character appears in most of the illustrations.) The more I look at the book, the more I like it - for example, on the page that says "A time to plant, a time to reap," you see a panel with a man teaching a child to play guitar on the plant side, and on the reap side, an elderly man playing the guitar. Lots of things in the pictures to think about, and the sheet music in the back was a lovely surprise.