Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: MARSHMALLOW CLOUDS by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee Member Amanda Sealey
A poetry collection of the most imaginative kind, MARSHMALLOW CLOUDS: TWO POETS PLAY AMONG FIGURES OF SPEECH blends two poet’s distinct styles into one seamless book. Categorized by the four elements: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, the reader is
given the delight of being immersed in natural settings and the gift of using their imaginations to bring these poems to life. From the quiet punch of emotion in “Secrets”:
“It’s good to free a secret
and let the place in your chest
where it crawled you like a badger scar over and heal”
to the chuckle-inducing moments in “Cow Pie”:
“People who live in cities
never get to accidentally step
in a cow pie. You never find them
fresh, steaming on a concrete street
near a parking meter
in front of the French bakery.
No one puts alfalfa in a pie
the way a cow does.”
These poems are reflective, gentle, and sometimes humorous, all while allowing for imaginative introspection. Underlying metaphors are laced throughout the pages, making each stanza uniquely stand out.
Images are evoked throughout, furthering the imaginative play. Marshmallows are grandmother’s cheek and books are the “chewy salami of history.” Meteor showers are like cat scratches and barns have “patched-up underwear of rotten boards.” The similes and powerfully descriptive imagery give the reader a chance to picture the poems in their minds, despite what the illustrations may show.
Though unsigned, as if written by a single author, each poem in the elemental categories flows into the next seamlessly. They are atmospheric and have a meandering way of getting the reader to both smile and think.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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