4.01.2016

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse



Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths is the third book of this kind by Marilyn Singer and "target="_blank">Josée Masse, and the first I've read. I had heard of her first two books of reverso poems, Mirror Mirror and Follow Follow, especially because the subject is fairy tales, but I am happy to start with Echo Echo since Greek myths are just as engaging! Like fairy tales, themes in Greek myths are often black and white, good and bad, making them perfect candidates for a reverso poem.

But first, what is a reverso poem? When done well, it's a brilliant thing to behold, and Singer does reverso very well. Taking two characters, usually opposites, or sometimes telling two sides of one story, a poem is composed that, when read from top to bottom, shares one perspective and, when read from bottom to top (sometimes with a few changes of punctuation or capitalization) tells a different story. 



Icarus and Daedalus is a perfect example. An especially nice feature of this fantastic book is a text box at the bottom of each page that briefly and succinctly summarizes the myth in the poem. Icarus speaks first, describing the wonder of flight, ending with these apt words, "I know  / why / we burn to fly!" Reversing the poem, Daedalus begins his narrative with, "We burn to fly / why / I know / the glory of soaring." It's stunning the way that Singer can put the same words in the mouths of two different characters and have them come out so different. In Icarus's poem, you can feel the excitement and amazement at flying so high, so close to the sun. In Daedalus's poem you can hear a father's caution and wisdom. You will find yourself reading these poems over and over, wondering at the ways they are the same and different.

Pandora and her box


Arachne and Athena

If you are like me, you will be so surprised and intrigued by Singer's poems that you may not give Masse's illustrations the attention they deserve. However, if you linger over them, you will notice that Masse's illustrations embody the reverso theme as well. I have a growing number of students enthralled by Greek mythology and I can't wait to get Echo Echo into their hands, especially because, as English language learners, the straight forward presentation of the classic stories will make it more immediately graspable for them.


Singer & Masse's other books of 
reverso poems!




Source: Review Copy


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