Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarinski

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I sometimes think poetry is at it’s best when it’s written and illustrated for children. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarinski is one such example. The illustrations capture the metaphors of a world changing with the seasons, and the poem is simply beautiful.

In the poem, Joyce Sidman describes each season through its the colors and the five senses, using perfectly crafted metaphors.

Red sings
from treetops:
each note dropping
like a cherry
into my ear.

In the poem, some colors have smells, others have sounds and emotions. The colors brush against “pup’s” legs, and the girl who narrates, who looks like a queen, also feel the heat of summer and the chill of winter through the colors. Seasons are artistically captured, yet we can, I believe, all relate.

The illustrator, Pamela Zagarinski, is likewise talented. Her illustrations bring the metaphors to life. What a perfect introduction to poetry! I think seeing metaphors illustrated helps one to understand the concept. From my experience, I think metaphor sometimes is a challenge for students and adults, but for a 3-year-old with a broad imagination, it makes perfect sense. This is the perfect age to begin discussing poetry.

“Why do you think spring is like cherries?” I asked Raisin.

When he said he didn’t know, we talked about the red birds singing. I pointed to the notes illustrated as coming from the bird’s mouth, and then we noticed how they turned in to cherries as they reached the girl’s ears. By the next metaphor, he was ready to look at the picture, to find the way that “Yellow and Purple hold hands,” for example, means the blooming flowers.  Later, in summer, he figured out that “White clinks in drinks” means the ice cubes.

I read this book first aloud to Raisin, and given my praise of it and request to read it again, he now loves it too and requests it. “Read the red singing book, Mommy!” Sometimes we only read one season. Sometimes he wants to go through the entire year. At any rate, he’s adopted it as a favorite too. I’m so glad; I’d love to read it every day. Now I just need to get a copy of it for our own poetry shelf!

I discovered Red Sings from Treetops when my son’s Library Reading Patch club assignment was to read Caldecott winners and honor books, and this one jumped into our bag from the shelf. Red Sings is certainly well deserving of its honor, both for the perfectly appropriate illustrations and the gorgeous poetry therein. Because I posted on a snowflake book last week, I thought I should remind of the budding spring this week with this cheerful book of seasonal poetry. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It’s not just for kids.

On the Web: A video with Joyce Sidman describing her writing process; her website. I love that she says she was inspired by noticing the colors in nature. I’m looking forward to doing the same with my little son.

Red Sings From Treetops was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009. It received a Caldecott Honor in 2010, and it also was the Cybils Poetry winner in 2010.

Reviewed on April 10, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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