Plum is a peach of a poetry collection, a thoroughly engaging potpourri set off by magnificently rich illustrations. Everyone including very young children, older elementary students, even adults will find words to savor here. The pieces range from short ditties to longer story-poems and cover a broad range of topics. A simple poem called "flightpath" is a perfect starter poem for preschoolers. It reads: "The reason why the fly annoys me, as it does, is that, however hard I try, I can't ignore its BUZZ." The illustration shows a wacky dog, obviously driven bug-eyed by the pest, with the text zigzagging its way across his forehead, representing the fly's zooming path. Artist Mary GrandPré is best known for illustrating the U.S. editions of the Harry Potter books. Several spreads invoke the magical qualities of Harry Potter, but others, like the one showing the Queen of England and the president of Zarnia in a long romp of a poem called "Mrs. Bhattacharya's Chapati Machine," display her talent for zany action and expression.
"Mrs. Rummage's Muddle-Up Shop," a longer poem, tells about a girl who wants a lollipop in a crazy shop belonging to a very mixed-up lady. The shopkeeper can't find the confection, which is all the while sticking in her hair, so she tears apart her store in a frenzied search. The mood reminds me of Willy Wonka &and the Chocolate Factory, and once again, the illustrations bring all of the fun to a fever pitch. A simple page of notes at the back of the book provides a wealth of information about various poems. Plum ends on a serenely sweet note, with a graceful poem called "Instructions for Growing Poetry," which begins, "Shut your eyes. Open your mind. Look inside. What do you find?" and ends, "Now those little words are sprouting poetry inside your head." Plum is a richly ripe book just waiting to be picked and added to any child's library.
Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.