Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-me Book of Poems, newly in paperback, is selected by longtime poets and anthologists of poetry, XJ and Dorothy M Kennedy and illustrated by the heir to Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter's delicate watercolor tradition, Jane Dyer. If you can only buy (or make room on your shelves for) three poetry books for children, this should be the first one you buy as soon as your baby is born. (The other two are anything by Shel Silverstein and A Children's Anthology of Poetry, to be purchased and read in that order.) Jane Dyer's illustrations make this collection infinitely irresistible to little eyes and the poems make it irresistible to little ears.
The poems are divided into sections that include subjects such as, Play, Families, Just for Fun, Birds, Bugs and Beasts, Rhymes and Songs, Magic and Wonder, Wind and Weather, Calendars and Clocks and Day and Night. Contributing poets include Jack Prelutsky, Edward Lear, Langston Hughes, Robert Louis Stevenson, Eve Merriam, John Ciardi, Gwendolyn Brooks, NM Bodecker, Nikki Gionvanni, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson and Jane Yolen.
Listen! I've a big surprise!
My new mom has light-green eyes.
and my new brother, almost ten,
is really smart. He helped me when
we did our homework. They moved in
a week ago. When we begin
to settle down, she said that you
could come for dinner. When you do
you'll like them, just like Dad and me,
so come and meet my family!
-Myra Cohn Livingston
While you may not be able to read the tiny text of the poems, you do get a feel for the wonderful illustrations that accompany and enfold them. And, if you are interested in how this book got it's name, a passage from Isak Dinesen's book Out of Africa begins the book. Dinesen writes of harvesting maize in the field with young Swahili field laborers and speaking to them in their own language, but in non-sensical, rhyming verse. She tried to get them to join in with her and finish her rhymes, but they would not. When she stopped her game, they begged her, "Speak again. Speak like rain." As Dinesen writes, "Why they should feel verse to be like rain, I do not know,. It must have been, however, an expression of applause, since in Africa rain is always longed for and welcomed." What a beautiful image and thought to begin the book with - that poetry itself should be like applause and welcomed like rain in a dry land.