Sidman, Joyce. 2009. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors. Ill. by Pamela Zagarenski. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN – 9780547014944.
Critical Review –
In this creatively clever poetry book, Sidman showcases twenty-seven poems in four sections, one for each season: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each poem describes aspects of the particular season through the voices of a color. Spring begins with “Red sings from treetops:/cheer-cheer-cheer,/each note dropping/like a cherry/into my ear” which is referring to a red bird that carries the reader throughout the anthology. Then spring continues with green, yellow, purple, etc. Each color refers to a specific occurrence that one would experience in spring. Sidman continues the pattern through all four seasons, and ends winter where spring begins with, “it begins to sing:/and/each note drops/like a cherry/into/my/ear.” To end by returning to the beginning perfectly shows the cyclic force of nature.
Additionally, Sidman takes the reader on an explosion of sensory detail. In every poem, the reader can see, hear, smell, taste, and/or touch the experiences of each season. In the first poem of summer, she manages to get work in all five senses in a poem that only contains seventeen words which is an astonishingly creative feat. Besides sensory images, her creativeness also surfaces in her interesting use of font styles. Every color mentioned is typed in that color, and she also uses italics, bold, outline, and highlight to create a unique look to each poem that further draws the reader’s attention. Likewise, Zagarenski grabs the reader with her illustrations of mixed media paintings on wood and computer illustrations. Every page is loaded with visual stimuli to explore. The illustrations are as imaginative and engaging as the poems to make this book difficult to put down. Below is a poem from this amazing collection.Summer
By Joyce Sidman
White clinks in drinks.
everything it touches...
smells like butter,
tastes like salt.
Kid Connection –
Before reading the poem, display a five column chart with headings of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch using either a flip chart or multimedia project. Play the song, “Colors of the Wind” by Vanessa Williams. After the song, fill in the chart with sensory words that the children heard in the song. Next, read the first poem of the “Summer” section. Then, divide the class into two groups, “white” and “yellow.” As you read the poem again, have the “white” group read the first stanza with you, and have the “yellow” group read the second stanza. As a follow-up, give each student a white piece of paper and a yellow piece of paper, and have them draw images of summer that they associate with each color.