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Lion of the Sky


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About the Author

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 130 books for kids, including If You Were the Moon, Water Can Be . . ., and Bookspeak! Poems about Books. Poetry and rhyming nonfiction books are her favorite things to write. Laura loves to do author visits, writing workshops, and teacher inservices. Read more about Laura and her work at Merce Lopez is an artist and illustrator who lives in Barcelona, Spain.


A sleek bird kite flown by a child in springtime kicks off this poetic collection of seasonal objects, animals, and activities. Six poems per season invite audience observation and enjoyment. First-time readers may not realize that each haiku is also a riddle with a list of answers found at the end of the book. Only in her concluding author's note does Salas describe the structure she calls 'riddle-ku.' Readers are meant to guess the identity of the non-human narrator in each poem. She also notes that the non-human voices make these 'mask poems.' Simple instructions then encourage readers to compose their own riddle-ku. The expansive acrylic scenes featuring children, animals and/or objects offer visual cues about the narrators. For instance, the leaves talk as a child happily bounces in a pile of them. Salas often sets a playful tone and is adept with language. Her diction and syntax are simple and fun. Paired with other seasonal materials, this book offers ample discussion and teaching opportunities with individual readers or groups. VERDICT This well-crafted work contains versatile possibilities for classrooms and libraries.--School Library Journal

-- "Journal"

In this charming, beautifully illustrated collection arranged by season, Salas employs a form she calls 'riddle-ku, ' a first-person haiku that hints at the speaker, inviting readers to guess its identity, typically an object or being associated with a season. For example, 'Spring' opens with 'I am a wind bird, / sky skipper, diamond dipper, / DANCING on your string, ' and Lopez's accompanying illustration depicts a soaring, large red bird guided by boy below. 'Summer' showcases fireflies, baseball and fireworks. 'Fall' features a school building ('my first-day outfit / is fresh paint and polished floors-- / here come my new friends!'), apple-picking, and jack-o'-lanterns, while 'Winter' includes snow, ice skates, and a hibernating animal: 'In fur coat and cave / I exhale white clouds of breath, / DREAM of sun . . . green . . . spring.' The eloquent language ranges from philosophical to whimsical, and that tone is reflected in the colorful acrylic paintings, which nicely combine realism and abstract touches and provide visual clues. An appended author's note explains the inspiration behind her 'riddle-ku, ' with encouragement for readers to create their own; an answer key; and a further reading list. While the riddles' mystique may wane once little ones solve them, the wonderfully evocative, vivid imagery in text and art also make this a welcome addition for poetry classroom units.--starred, Booklist

-- "Journal"

In this spirited collaboration, Salas and Lopez present 24 suggestive poetic snapshots chronicling the cycle of a year. Highlighting season-appropriate objects for spring, fall, summer, and winter, Salas magnifies the spareness of the haiku form by turning each concentrated first-person portrait into a riddle as she tantalizingly omits naming the subject describing itself. Meanwhile Lopez offers young and pre-readers florid visual hints, depicting in deft brush strokes and lush colors the author's hidden subjects. Combined, these artists render objects gentle as summer's fireflies ('fire in our bellies / we FLICKER-FLASH in twilight-- / rich meadow of stars') or winter's snowflakes ('I'm cold confetti / falling from a crystal sky, / blanketing the town, ' here shown as a white-roofed town in a snow globe painted against a wintry verdigris sky spackled with haphazard white blots) or bold as a fall jack-o'-lantern ('I perch on the porch, / spooky face frozen in place, / fire BURNING inside'--glowering large with flaming orange eyes as the finger of a ghostly trick-or-treater rings the doorbell in the background). What sets this volume apart from similar haiku explorations of the seasons is the tight synthesis of visual object and oblique verbal depiction, making for both wonderfully contemplative experiences of each illustrated poem and the seamless progression of nature's cycle through the year. Richly rewarding and clever: a visually arresting, inventive treatment of a popular subject.--starred, Kirkus Reviews

-- "Journal"

Organized in four sections beginning with spring, Salas's lovely haiku are written in the voices of animals and organic or inanimate objects related to the seasons. 'Fire in our bellies, / we FLICKER-FLASH in twilight--/ rich meadow of stars, ' speak the summer's fireflies. Each haiku contains a riddle element--readers must guess the narrator (in an author's note, Salas refers to the form as a 'riddle-ku'). It's not always clear who, or what, is speaking, but Lopez's evocative acrylics visually communicate the imagery within the poems. 'I'm a WRIGGLING tube, / soft underground tunneler--/ I fear early birds, ' one announces. The small bird hovering over a hole clues readers in to the speaker's identity: a worm. The book's meditative tone and resonant images invite readers to embrace new ways of seeing the world around them.--Publishers Weekly

-- "Journal"

Poet Salas turns haiku up a notch with what she calls 'riddle-ku, ' haiku written in the first person from the POV of someone or something whose identity needs to be guessed. Six such poems appear for each season, with spring represented by, among others, umbrellas ('we sprout on stems of people/ bloom only in the rain'), summer by mosquitoes ('wicked whine with wings'), fall by squirrels ('I search under oaks/ and gather tasty treasures'), and winter by snow angels ('give me winter wings'). The concept is inviting, adding a slightly mysterious note to the familiar form of haiku, and Salas skillfully knits her verses together with consonance and wit. The difficulty level of the guessing game is low, as most of the riddles are clearly explicated by the moody but precise acrylic art for kids who haven't guessed the answer just from the text (readers aloud may want to hold back the pictures to allow for full solving opportunities), but audiences will still appreciate the gentle stretch. It's also a format suitable for reading alone as well as reading aloud, and it will likely inspire emulation as well as enjoyment. Back matter offers an explanation of riddle-ku, a key to the riddle answers, and further poetic reading on haiku, riddle poems, and seasons.--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

-- "Journal"

Salas presents a volume of 'riddle-ku' poems, a form that is a cross between riddles, haiku, and 'mask poems' (poems narrated by 'something nonhuman'). The book is divided into four sections, by season, with each poem representing something traditionally associated with that season. Supporting illustrations help readers solve the puzzles: 'I am a wind bird, / sky skipper, diamond dipper, / dancing on your string, ' is pictured by a child flying a kite. Salas's innovative language steals the show. What is 'firelight from the past' or 'a yellow train / carrying thoughts from your brain / to the waiting page'? (Answers: stars and a pencil.) Lopez's acrylic and digital illustrations capture movement and texture through strong lines and seasonal hues. A tangle of lines denotes the sticks of a bird's nest in spring, the determined flight of a mosquito toward its human target in summer, and the blades of an ice-skater in winter. Backgrounds are mostly pale and muted, in earthy-khaki tones, but they occasionally erupt in colorful explosions and even more exuberant lines, such as the eponymous 'lion of the sky' (fireworks) or the 'crispy crowd of loud crunch' (pile of fall leaves). Multiple readings are in order: the first few may revolve around riddle solving, while subsequent ones will allow readers to savor the imaginative language and illustrations.--The Horn Book Magazine

-- "Journal"

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