Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is a perfect poetry book, for older kids and younger kids, people new to poetry and people who have been reading it for years. On top of that, Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, represents a wonderful mix of classic and established poets (of both children's and adult poetry) and contemporary poets like Ted Kooser, the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States and author of the picture books House Held Up By Trees and Bag in the Wind. The 36 poems were written over the course of three centuries and are organized by season. Melissa Sweet's illustrations are a combination of collage, painting and pencil drawings and are cheerfully colorful and wonderfully engaging, even in the section of Winter poems.
Spring leads off the collection and the season includes poems by Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams and X.J. Kennedy while Summer offers up Charlotte Zolotow, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and Caldecott winner Joyce Sidman. James Stevenson, Robert Frost, Eve Merriam, Richard Wright and Alice Schertle add to Fall and Winter.
A short poem is successful when it captures a moment and evokes and image, and that is what every poem in this collection does - with the added burst of Sweet's illustrations to enhance the mental snapshot created. Introducing children to poetry with short poems is also a great way to inspire them to write poetry of their own - as well as strengthen their descriptive writing skills. Less is more and there is an art in economy and every poem in this book exemplifies this idea.
There are clever poems like Raymond Souster's Spring, "Rain bests down, / roots stretch up. / They'll meet / in a flower." There are thoughtful poems like this one by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, "What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?" Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems ends beautifully with this poem, written by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser -
A welcome mat of moonlight
on the floor. Wipe your feet
before getting into bed.