Paul B. Janeczko, Author

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Here are the first four reviews that Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems received. Each journal gave the book a star! Melissa Sweet and I are blown away by the early response to the collection. If you read the reviews, you'll know why we feel the way we do.

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4842-8

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Never more than six or seven lines long—and some are just a few words—each poem in Janeczko’s (A Foot in the Mouth) spirited anthology celebrates an aspect of the seasons. Evocative and accessible, they make excellent prompts for classroom poetry exercises. “What is it the wind has lost,” ask poets Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, “that she keeps looking for/ under each leaf?” Sweet’s (Little Red Writing) artwork is marvelously varied. In some spreads, the animals and people are drafted in thoughtful detail, while in others her line is loopy and spontaneous. Dragonflies and crickets blink with flirtatious cartoon-character eyes in one scene, while fireflies and their haunting light are painted with meditative calm in another. Beach towels are striped in hot colors; fog in a city is rice paper glued over a collage of tall buildings. William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and Carl Sandburg’s little cat feet appear along with lesser-known works. Even Langston Hughes’s poem about a crowded subway sounds a note of hope: “Mingled/ breath and smell/ so close/ mingled/ black and white/ so near/ no room for fear.” Ages 6–9. (Mar.)

From Kirkus:

Choosing from works spanning three centuries, Janeczko artfully arranges 36 elegant poems among the four seasons.
With each poem’s relationship to its season often subtle or tangential, Janeczko avoids the trite repetition flawing some seasonal poetry collections. The initial poem, by Cid Corman for “Spring,” lauds a dawn scene: “Daybreak reminds us— / the hills have arrived just in / time to celebrate.” Emily Dickinson’s poem shimmers in the “Summer” section: “The Moon was but a Chin of Gold / A Night or two ago —/ And now she turns Her perfect Face / Upon the World below….” (The moon’s presence shines throughout, in eight poems.) Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, whose published 2003 collaboration is represented by two poems, offer this autumnal musing: “What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?” The winter poems are snowy, but they are also laced with fog; nature scenes alternate with depictions of a subway, a rusting truck, harbor boats and more. Sweet’s effervescent mixed-media collages include signature elements like graph paper and saturated pinks; the large format engenders some expansive compositions, such as one showing the curve of the Earth near an enormous, smiling full moon. Inventive details abound, too: The last spread shows a child asleep under a crazy quilt that incorporates motifs from all four seasons—a perfect visual ending.

From Booklist:

Celebrated poet and anthologist Janeczko has collected 36 very short poems (none is longer than 10 lines) about the seasons. The selections are by both children’s poets (Charlotte Zolotow, April Halprin Wayland, J. Patrick Lewis, Eve Merriam, and more) and adult poets (Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Ted Kooser, William Carlos Williams). In their brevity, the poems remind us that less can often be more and that there is art in economy. Every reader——or listener will have his or her favorite poem, but some that are outstanding include Gerald Jonas’ “In Passing,” Joyce Sidman’s “A Happy Meeting,” J. Patrick Lewis’ “Firefly July,” April Halprin Wayland’s “Sandpipers,” and Ted Kooser’s “Snow Fence.” Only a few of the poems are universally familiar: William Carlos William’s “The Red Wheelbarrow,” Carl Sandburg’s “Fog,” and— arguably— Robert Frost’s “Dust of Snow.” For young children, most of the others will be agreeable surprises, and each entry offers a happy encounter with words put beautifully together. Caldecott Honor artist Sweet’s pictures are, in a word, gorgeous. Executed in watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media, they capture and expand the spirit and sensibility of the verses they illustrate to wonderful effect. The harmonious cooperation of words and images provides a memorable reading experience for each season and for the whole year ‘round.  — Michael Cart

From School Library Journal:

K-Gr 4–Organized by the seasons, beginning with spring, this collection of 36 impeccably chosen short poems demonstrates that significant emotional power can reside in just a few lines. In obvious contrast with such small bites of poetry, the large-format design explodes with bright and expressive watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media collages. Colors and shapes with willowy details expertly blur or bring bits of the images into focus to create a magical sense of place, time, and beauty. The poems range from work by William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes to that of James Stevenson, Joyce Sidman, and Ralph Fletcher. The first verse opens the book with daybreak, and after exploring the whole year, the final selection sends readers off to sleep: “A welcome mat of moonlight/on the floor. Wipe your feet/before getting into bed” (Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser). Every poem evokes a moment, and, combined with its corresponding full-bleed illustration, the season is captured for readers to remember, experience, or anticipate. Any collection will be brighter with the inclusion of this treasure.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA