About the Holiday
Holidays don’t get more leisurely than this one! Perhaps invented by the Ancient Greeks, perhaps created by people in South America according to Christopher Columbus’s journals, hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. What better time is there to kick back and lounge than during the hot, hazy days of July? So enjoy—and read a book, like today’s collection of poetry!
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Firefly July is perfect for lazy summer days when light, but still meaningful reading enjoyed in a hammock or under a shady tree is relaxation at its best. Paul B. Janeczko has collected 36 short (none are over eight lines long) poems from some of the best poets of today and yesterday. Haiku, free form, and rhyming verses illuminate the seasons of the year and encapsulate unforgettable sights, sounds, and feelings.
A girl’s spring’s respite spent gazing into the bay from shore is depicted in Lillian Morrison’s The Island:
“Wrinkled stone / like an elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading.”
A nighttime train trip provides mystery and ongoing changes in Carl Sandburg’s Window:
“Night from a railroad car window / Is a great, dark, soft thing / Broken across with slashes of light.”
Joyce Sidman’s A Happy Meeting likens a summer rain to romance and life:
“Rain meets dust: / soft, cinnamon kisses. / Quick noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud.”
At the seashore, beach birds are industrious in April Halprin Wayland’s Sandpipers:
“Sandpipers run with / their needle beaks digging—they’re / hemming the ocean.”
Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser ask such a beguiling question for autumn:
“What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?”
And the rising giants of city life inspired Susan Nichols Pulsifer in Tall City:
“Here houses rise so straight and tall / That I am not surprised at all / To see them simply walk away / Into the clouds—this misty day.”
Along the way readers will encounter a pickup truck loaded with old rotary fans and another rusting in a field; fog that decorates and creeps; animals and insects that share our space; our past, our present, and our future. And when it’s time to close the book, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser reveal:
“A welcome mat of moonlight / on the floor. Wipe your feet / before getting into bed.”
I can only wish I’d been able to visit Melissa Sweet’s studio while she created the illustrations for this book! Each painting is as unique in style, beauty, and emotional effect as the poems they interpret. Her renditions of each poem help readers—especially children unfamiliar with metaphor and abstract imaging—to fully understand and appreciate each poem while also leaving room for personal reflection.
The first thing that strikes a reader when opening Firefly July is the gorgeous juxtaposition and mixture of vibrant color. Her illustrations take readers on a journey from an aqua farm house with a patchwork garden to a serene elephantine rock island to the deep turquoise ocean traversed by ships while the full moon beams down upon them. Readers ride crowded subways, gaze out moving train windows, and visit cities bright in daylight and glowing at night. They frolic through fields of delicate grasses and vibrant flowers, quietly walk snowy paths, and take their place among the stars.
Firefly July is as stunning as any coffee table book and is a must for a young reader’s—or any poetry lover’s—library.
Ages 4 and up
Candlewick Press, 2014 Hardcover ISBN 978-0763648428 | Paperback, 2018 ISBN 978-0763699710
Take a look at more books and artwork by Melissa Sweet on her website!
National Hammock Day Activity
Lazy Days Coloring Page
Coloring can be so relaxing—perfect for a day dedicated to kicking back! Color this printable Lazy Days Coloring Page and dream of lounging beside the lake, with the gentle breeze gently rocking the hammock, while you drift off to sleee….zzzz…..