The Popcorn Astronauts
THE POPCORN ASTRONAUTS by Deborah Ruddell is an excellent poetry collection, definitely one of the best of the year, perhaps the best Newbery eligible collection, especially if we think of Marilyn Nelson’s MY SENECA VILLAGE as more of a narrative work of poetry.
All of the poems in THE POPCORN ASTRONAUTS are about food, as the subtitle indicates (“And Other Biteable Rhymes”), but they are further subdivided into seasons. I wasn’t 100% convinced that an additional seasonal motif worked well last year in FIREFLY JULY, and I’m not sure that it works entirely here either, but that is a very small quibble. Here’s one of the summer poems . . .
Speaking of Peaches . . .
There is so much to say about peaches,
but it’s hard to know where to begin
Do you start with the flowery fragrance,
or the summery sweetness within?
Or the juice, as it stickily trickles
from your lips to the tip of your chin?
Or the sunset of beautiful colors
on the flannelpajamaty skin?
I think “flannelpajamaty” is, like, the best made-up word I’ve heard in ages. Other strengths of the poem: internal rhymes, alliteration, sibilance, and imagery. Those are all in evidence in this fall poem, too, which is a bit sillier . . .
Voyage of the Great Baked Potato Canoes
“Away, away to Green Bean Bay!”
said the Great Baked Potato Canoes.
They left the dock at six o’clock
for the dangerous dinner-plate cruise.
They oozed with steam and sour cream.
They were buried in bacon and chives.
But silverware was everywhere–
and they barely escaped with their lives.
Poetry in picture book format has only been recognized twice in my lifetime–A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE’S INN and DARK EMPEROR–so I’m not terribly optimistic for THE POPCORN ASTRONAUT’s chances, but I do think it’s worthy of consideration.
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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