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WITH MY HANDS by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater


Poems About Making Things

by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater ; illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

Pub Date: March 27th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-544-31340-8
Publisher: HMH Books

This trove of construction projects, relayed through a series of poems, rouses readers to roll up their sleeves and make something with their own hands—a painting, a birdhouse, a knot, a piñata, a soap-bar sculpture, a batch of cookies, a painting, or even a shadow-puppet show.

Lithe, immersive verse, voiced in the first person, inspires children to find solace, joy, and power in their handiwork. “I learn to draw by staying still. / I follow every line. / I love to draw because I know— / what I draw is mine.” This orderly, balanced, primly conscientious closing stanza conveys both the focus a finely executed drawing requires and the private pride that arrives upon its completion. Varied pacing, style, and format allow these nimble poems to perfectly reflect the activity they describe. The taut verse binding “This knot / is not easy to tie. / It is not” captures the child’s jaw-clenched frustration and concentration; its deft economy brilliantly embodies a tightly knotted rope. Teachers and caregivers will find ample opportunities to delve both into these fine poems’ mechanics and the fantastic construction ideas they encourage and describe. Fancher and Johnson’s mixed-media–collage illustrations support the verse, showing children of varying skin tones engaged in their projects; at times they allow their activities to swell surreally across the page, suggesting their transportive powers.

Poetry sparks an irresistible, primal urge to twist, cut, paint, draw, glue, carve, whittle, daub, tie, hammer, to simply make.

(Picture book/poetry. 4-10)