Sometimes a poem is just what you need to clarify your feelings or lighten your mood. That’s especially true in these tumultuous times, with emotions running high and understanding running low. This collection of poems for children examines the highs and lows of childhood while also taking on some of life’s bigger issues. Things like being sad or glad. Surviving school days. Having friends and ex-friends. Embracing the change of seasons and solving the big questions and answers, like what to be when you grow up and why it’s so hard to learn manners.
The title poem, What are you Glad about? What are you Sad about? provides grown-ups with an apropos opening for a discussion about what’s happening in a child’s own mind, as well as in the world at large. It begins:
If you had just one color to paint the whole world,
Would it be orange or gray?
If you had just one message to give to the world,
Would it be grrr or hooray?
Not everything is serious, however. Viorst’s poems for the seasons humorously evoke the feelings, sights and scents of each special time of the year. From poems about sizzling, sweaty, and even stinky summer days, to showy, swirling autumn leaves and the bashful buds of spring, her verses express the things children wonder about while learning nature’s capricious ways. Her ode to “shivery winter” portrays the experience of frigid mornings as told by someone who prefers warmer weather:
I’m shaking. I’m shaken. I’m shook.
How I’d love to be reading a book.
Somewhere cozy and nice.
Have my ears turned to ice?
Couldn’t somebody please take a look?
In Between, the final poem in this small book, poignantly sums up the state of mind of a child who is at that difficult stage of life: too old for some things, yet too young for others. Viorst compares it to being too young for War and Peace, yet too old for Where the Wild Things Are, or too old for sippy cups but too young for lattes:
I’m in between and often
In between is very hard.
This funny yet insightful collection of verses makes perfect reading for a growing school age child who sometimes “can’t tell the downs from ups” and the adults who love and guide them.