Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Enormous Smallness

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Aly at Kid Lit Frenzy. 
Every Wednesday, bloggers link up their non-fiction picture book reviews. Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what great non-fiction books are shared this week!

Title: Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings
Author: Matthew Burgess 
Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo 
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books 
Publication Date: April 7th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction Biography/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Enormous Smallness is a nonfiction picture book about the poet E.E. cummings. Here E.E.'s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Lively and informative, the book also presents some of Cummings's most wonderful poems, integrating them seamlessly into the story to give the reader the music of his voice and a spirited, sensitive introduction to his poetry.
     In keeping with the epigraph of the book -- "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are," Matthew Burgess's narrative emphasizes the bravery it takes to follow one's own vision and the encouragement E.E. received to do just that. 
What I Think: ee cummings is such a well-known poet and deservedly so. He played with words and structure in poetry in such a creative way and I love reading his poems. Last summer while I was in Boston, I visited Forest Hill Cemetery and tracked down his grave. I blogged about how awesome it was to stand there and read aloud one of his poems. As I read Enormous Smallness, I felt the magic of being in the cemetery in Boston all over again. Burgess plays with words and incorporates cummings' own poetry into the text in such a way that it feels woven into his own words. At the same time, Di Giacomo does an excellent job of representing words visually, helping bring meaning to life. 
     I love everything about this book. The writing is descriptive and powerful. Matched with the illustrations, it certainly brings a certain tone and mood to the text that matches both ee cummings himself but also the time period. 
     As a mentor text, I would definitely use this book to discuss how and author's word choice impacts tone and mood. In general, this book is a discussion on descriptive writing and author's craft waiting to happen. In the snatch of text I've pulled here, you can easily talk about metaphor and onomatopoeia but also rhythm and how sentence structure impacts that...but this is just one piece of text from one page in the book. It's definitely a book to be reread over and over just to soak in and savor all the textual and visual mastery here.
Read Together:  Grades 2 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 2 - 12 
Read With: Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening by Chris Raschka, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant
Snatch of Text:
"As Estlin grew, he drew many pictures
from the great circus of his imagination.

But even more than drawing
elephants, trees, and birds,

What words say and how they sound and look.
He loved the way they hum, buzz, POP, and swish."

Writing Prompts: In the book, Estlin made up his first poem after seeing a bird outside of his bedroom window. The author writes, "From his bedroom window, Estlin could see enormous apple and cherry trees." Write about what you see outside your bedroom window or maybe use you imagination and write about what you wish you could see outside of your bedroom window.
Topics Covered: Family, Inspiration, Imagination, Creativity 
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