The Cuckoo’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen

Posted: under Reviews.
Tags: , April 27th, 2009

by Kelly

by Kelly

Ever since I rearranged the furniture in my office and set up my computer so that whenever I sit down to type I’m also looking out a window, I’ve started to pay more attention to birds.

I catch them, out of the corner of my eye, doing all their bird-y things: cawing, pecking, strutting, hopping, dancing, flapping, flitting.

I know the crows, the robins, the jays. In other words, the ones that are easy to recognize. The rest, to me, are just birds.

But they’re not just birds to author Michael J. Rosen.

His newest book, out just this spring, is called The Cuckoo’s Haiku: And Other Birding Poems.

In it are 24 haiku, each dedicated to a different bird like the Canada goose, the starling and the purple finch.

Sometimes Rosen’s little poems detail the calls or habits of a species. Other times, his poems paint a vivid word picture.

This one, for example, struck a chord with me:

twittering at dusk

chimney swifts sail above the

citronella glow

I can see those birds, exactly like that, in my head: It’s summer. I’m at the cabin. The sun is sinking. The mosquitoes are biting and those small, black birds — instead of getting ready to bed down for the night — are suddenly very active.

Each of Rosen’s haiku is accompanied by beautiful, bright and splashy water colors (by illustrator Stan Fellows) that fill two-page spreads. Plus, tiny factoids about each species dot every page.

While the title is being billed as a children’s book (Rosen boasts a string of children’s titles) it didn’t necessarily stike me as such.

It’s lovely — very much so — but some of the haiku were a bit too abstract, I thought, for a child’s mind.  A middle schooler, I thought, might understand the verses better, and an adult birder certainly so.

On the other hand, the illustrations are so fetching that I’m sure any child would be drawn in, as was I. And if a poem is a bit beyond their reach, well then, so be it.

It gives them something to reach for. And hopefully, they’ll sooner grasp the meaning of the haiku than any of the birds in the book.



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1 Comment »

  • 1

    This book looks really lovely. And honestly, I have always dreamed of being a bird watcher. Really! I have never gotten around to it, I’m not sure I’d know where to begin, but this book would be a good start. And with beautiful watercolors and haiku…. yum.

    Comment by Alison — April 27, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

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