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



Birds on a Wire

Birds on a Wire

Fall 2008 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Paul Janeczko
Author: J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrator: Gary Lippincott
ISBN: 9781590783832
Hardcover Price: $17.95
Review:
One late afternoon, a "hummingbird plays / its own game / homing in curious," while the sky "turns / shades of mustard." Birds on a Wire is a lovely meditative portrait of the ordinary people, pets and places in a small American town, written as a series of spare lyrical poems. The poetry of these lines is actually a collaborative effort between two authors, inspired by a traditional Japanese form known as the renga. Each section of a renga is composed of three lines written by one poet, followed by two related lines by a second poet; the pattern of three-two-three-two repeats for the length of the poem, while the subject morphs. J. Patrick Lewis and Paul B. Janeczko do a beautiful job with the call-and-response nature of this form, bringing to life their fictional community with a true eye for details. For example, a bountiful dinner table is described as "Mother magic" by one, and followed up by the other with "dinner sweetened / with grapes of talk." The soothing language and rhythm of the text makes it ideal bedtime reading, while at the same time the form opens up interesting possibilities for classroom writing projects. Gary Lippincott's painted illustrations are a warm visual complement to these poems.
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.


Share This