Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Fall 2008 Fiction
Ages: 7 & Up
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Eerdmans
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5302-8
Hardcover Price: $17.00
Review:
Modernist poet William Carlos Williams once wrote: "When I was younger / it was plain to me / I must make something of myself." Readers of this picture book biography of Williams soon discover that he was more than successful in this endeavor. In A River of Words, author Jen Bryant introduces children to the life story of one of America's greatest poets, a man who was both an artist and a practicing physician. As a child, young "Willie's" greatest gift was his ability to observe the world around him in all its powerful details-a gift that served him well as an emerging writer. We also learn that Williams was frustrated that the "pictures in his mind . . . didn't fit exactly into steady rhythms or rhymes." He eventually developed a free-verse aesthetic, choosing ordinary objects from everyday life as his subjects. Williams is an interesting choice for a children's book, as his poetry is more spare and abstract than many younger readers are used to. But there is such a loveliness to his images of plums, wheelbarrows and "red lace on a blue milky sky" that children will find something to respond to. Melissa Sweet's colorful collages incorporate drafts of poems into scenes from Williams's life in a thoroughly engaging way. A refreshing change from traditional children's poetry.
Zarina Mullan Plath   ©2008 Parents' Choice
Zarina Mullan Plath has undergraduate degrees in both biology and English. Her interests include cookbooks/culinary history, South Asian literature (especially in regards to South Asians in America), and, of course, children's literature. Her poetry is included in the anthology Sweeping Beauty (U. of Iowa Press, 2005). Zarina lives in Central Illinois with her husband, two children, and assorted pets.


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