With J Patrick Lewis, current Children's Poet Laureate and a twin himself, Jane Yolen, Caldecott Winner and prolific author of many genres and superlative artist Sophie Blackall joining forces, how could I not want to read Take Two: A Celebration of Twins? The fact that my loved cousin and his wonderful wife became the parents of adorable twin girls at the end of last year might have had a little something else to do with it. And, really, let's be honest, twins (and other multiples) are fascinating in and of themselves. Of course, to those of us who are not twins, identical twins are most intriguing. I always wonder if they really have their own language and if they ever pretend to be each other? And then there is just the mere fact, identical, fraternal or sororal, it is interesting to imagine what it must be like to have a womb mate who moves on to be someone closer to you, more genetically like you than anyone else in the world and, if you are lucky, your best friend. I suspect that the only people who will buy Take Two: A Celebration of Twins will be those with twins in their lives, but aren't you just a little bit curious to take a look at this book regardless?
Take Two: A Celebration of Twins is not just a collection of poems about twins. Take Two: A Celebration of Twins is all encompassing, with sections "twin facts" on every other page and sections titled, "Twins in the Waiting Womb," "Twinfants," "How to Be One" and "Famous Twins." Lewis and Yolen capture every life experience, from "Two Dots," a poem about the first ultrasound and "Waiting in the Womb" to "Twinfestation" and "Twindependent," these two think up almost every play on the word twin possible and, miraculously, don't wear out the word! Actually, the poem with the highest count of word play, is one of my favorites.
Some time we twincubate in Mom,
For not quite a year,
The twindow opens up for us,
We twinstantly appear.
Not yet quite twindividuals,
So twinsomely we smile,
With winning twincandescence,
They let us stay awhile.
And soon, from spring to twinter,
We've lived with them so long,
This small twinfestation
No longer seems so wrong.
However, the section where the poems really shine and probably will mean the most to twins (of a certain age) who read them, is "How to Be One," which can be read two ways (naturally!) as in "How to Be a Twin" or "How to Be an Individual." While as a a non-twin I think that it must be pretty neat to be one, as an adult and parent I have vague ideas about how it could be difficult to be a twin. In "We're Supposed to Be," two non-identical twins lament their different heights and hair, ending, "We're supposed to be as one/ It really isn't fair." "Big Fight: Round One," and "Big Fight: Round Two," could be about any sibling discord, but the poem about twins Amelia and Caroline make the dust up seem a bit more than just a fight. "Twindependent" begins, "I am I, I am not you," and illustrates the struggles for individuation that twins can experience. "More Than One" illustrates how a constant companion can be a bit tiresome, stating that, while two is more than one, it doesn't always mean double the fun, "two can make the day seem long/ With turns to take and compromises/ And never any real surprises," and ends with the narrator wishing her twin would "ride away upon her bike/ And leave me by myself all day,/ Until the feeling goes away." However, while I am sure there are bumps on the road, the companion poem to "More Than One," is really lovely:
Two's a Crowd
If you never have a single moment
You can call your own,
Always being dubbed "the twin"
And never left alone,
You'll understand the plight I'm in,
Wishing I were one,
As if that birth date long ago
Could somehow be redone.
But when I think how awfully lonely
Singletons must be,
It's then I'm glad that I have you,
Who's such a part of me.
It's interesting (and appropriate) that there are two authors for this wonderful collection of poems, and also that there is no indication as to who wrote which poem or if they were all collaborative and I think I like it that way. To those of you who don't have twins in your life, this book of twin poems may seem a bit like twins themselves - an interesting sort of oddity. But, if you have twins in your life, I think that Take Two: A Celebration of Twins is a must have, especially if they are under the age of ten or eleven. This book will resonate and sing for them for many years, I am sure!