BOOK REVIEW: Poems to Live Your Life By selected & illustrated by Chris Riddell

Poems to Live Your Life ByPoems to Live Your Life By by Chris Riddell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This is an anthology of forty-eight poems arranged into eight life-related topical areas. The connective theme is poems that the editor, Chris Riddell, found to contain valuable life lessons. The span runs from Rumi to poets of the present day. It’s a nice selection in that it includes not only old and new (thus varied styles of verse,) but also greater and lesser known poems and poets. [That’s not to say that any of the poets are unknowns, but some of the oldies are remembered through the ages more than others, and some of the newer individuals are better known for other activities – e.g. Neil Gaiman (novelist / storyteller,) Leonard Cohen (recording artist,) and Riddell, himself (graphic artist.)] There are several much anthologized inclusions that almost any poetry reader will have read, including: Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” and the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet, Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” and Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” However, there are many lesser known gems as well, many by masters of poetry such as Seamus Heaney, Christina Rossetti, and Philip Larkin.

The eight topical areas are: Musings, Youth, Family, Love, Imaginings, Nature, War, and Endings. Most of the sections contain five or six poems, though — tellingly — Love contains the most at twelve and War the least at three.

While Riddell not only selected the poems and include a couple of his own, he also illustrates the book. There are beautiful line drawings throughout that offer insight into Riddell’s interpretation of each poem.

I enjoyed this anthology. As I said, it’s a beautiful selection of poems, and the artwork is skillfully done as well. I’d highly recommend this book for poetry readers.

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BOOK REVIEW: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the MilkFortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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It’s “The Usual Suspects” for kids, but with Gaiman’s humor and imagination. A father goes out to buy a carton of milk for his kids’ cereal. When he comes back after being long delinquent, he’s got a rather extraordinary explanation for why the short run to the corner c-store took so long.

I read in a Gaiman’s new nonfiction collection, “The View from the Cheap Seats,” (due out May 31, 2016) that even he got grief for writing a children’s book in which the lead isn’t a child. But, he’s Neil Gaiman; so they wisely published it anyway. While the book is aimed at the children’s market, there’s enough humor and absurd happenings to keep an adult reading. So the risky choice of protagonist may prove useful. It certainly helps Gaiman’s argument against narrow definitions of children’s versus adult books (also discussed in detail “The View from the Cheap Seats.”)

Apropos of a youth market book, it’s only about 140 pages, but that’s with extensive illustrations (on almost every page, and many are full-page) and large font. Chris Riddell’s black and white drawings match the whimsicality of the text well.

I’d recommend the book for anyone who reads kid’s books (whether they’re a kid or not.)

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