A world of grief and pain
flowers bloom -
- Kobayashi Issa
Poetry can say so much with so few words. Many poets spend years learning to master their craft. And haiku, defined by the Poetry Foundation as "[a] Japanese verse form most often composed, in English versions, of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. A haiku often features an image, or a pair of images, meant to depict the essence of a specific moment in time," may be one of the hardest poetry forms to master.
One American poet/author, Sydell Rosenberg, who spent years writing and publishing haiku, longed to create an alphabet book of haiku for children. Unfortunately, she died before her dream could be realized. However, as a loving tribute, her daughter Amy Losak fulfilled her mother's dream by organized her haiku into a beautiful picture book for kids. This book was released in April, fittingly during National Poetry Month.
H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z
Author: Sydell Rosenberg
Illustrator: Sawsan Chalabi
Publisher: Penny Candy Books (2018)
Poetry, haiku, and A to Z concept book.
In H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, the late poet Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America and a New York City public school teacher, and illustrator Sawsan Chalabi offer an A-Z compendium of haiku that brings out the fun and poetry in everyday moments.
Inspired by her experiences living in New York City, Sydell Rosenberg’s haiku invite children and their parents to slow down, linger, and pay attention to the moments we often overlook.
Note to Reader:
As Amy Losak says in her note:
"A green weed grows in a sidewalk crack. A sparrow splashes in a puddle near the curb. Pigeons gather on a high window ledge. The rush and rumble of our daily lives. What do these things have in common?
They are all examples of simple, “small” moments. Thousands of small moments surround us. We see, hear, smell, taste, and touch them every day.
Often, we don’t give them a second thought because they don’t stand out. Or we may be too busy or too distracted to take notice. But these small moments can become a short form of poetry called haiku. Haiku poems make small moments “big.”
the cat sits in the fur ring
of his tail, and dreams.
Boy on a mailbox
perched like a solitary bird
watching the sunset.
Why I like this book:
The book is a collection of haiku, focusing on the small moments in our lives. They are organized alphabetically, by the first word of each poem. Both the poems and the illustrations exude a playful, childlike wonder of the world. Something sure to resonate and appeal to young and old.
Like the traditional Japanese haiku, most of the poems center on nature.
But a few of the haiku break the mold and focus upon things a child would notice or which would be important to child, such as a doll, a first library card, a bike ride, ice cream, a music lesson, or seeing a teacher in a restaurant. (It's always so strange to see a teacher away from school.)
Text © Sydell Rosenberg, 2018. Image © Sawsan Chalabi, 2018.
In her interview on Monday (here), Amy mentioned that she thought her mother had "wanted children to illustrate her book." I think Sydell would have enjoyed the colorful, child-like, imaginative illustrations of Sawsan Chalabi. As well as the playful hand lettering.
A "boy-bird" in overalls on a mailbox.
Rain drops coming from a cloud crying tears.
Texts © Sydell Rosenberg, 2018. Images © Sawsan Chalabi, 2018.
The nose on the turtle and the sun's face.
My favorite haiku in this collection (at least in this fleeting moment) is:
So pale - it hardly
sat on the outstretched branch
of the winter night.
This could easily refer to the moon, as Sawsan Chalabi imagined it (you'll have to check out the book to see her image). Or maybe, what I imagined - a lunar moth skimming past a tree or a snowy owl on tiptoes, about to pounce on its dinner.
I hope that this book will inspire kids and adults to learn more about haiku, and other poetry forms, and spend some time experiencing the fleeting, little moments that occur throughout our days.
- take a haiku that speaks to you, from this book or another source, and draw the image it creates in your mind;
For teachers or parents:
- The Haiku Foundation has a list of resources - https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/the-haiku-foundation-education-wall/; and
- Graceguts, a rich site by haiku poet, editor, and scholar/teacher, Michael Dylan Welch, has a sample lesson plan here - http://www.graceguts.com/workshops/a-sample-haiku-lesson-plan.
If you missed it, Amy Losak stopped by to talk about her mother and her mission to see her mother's beloved haiku published in H is for Haiku, this Monday (here).
This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.