A FAMILY OF POEMS:
Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Hyperion, December 2005
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
A FAMILY OF POEMS features a collection of one hundred and six of Caroline Kennedy's best loved poems from childhood. This collection is divided into seven categories: About Me, That's So Silly, Animals, The Seasons, The Seashore, Adventures and Bedtime. It includes a wide range of poets from Langston Hughes' urban poetry and Sonia Sanchez black speech verse to William Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien. It has many of the classic children's poems by A.A. Milne, E.E. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Walter de la Mare. Ms. Kennedy has also chosen two poetic selections from the Holy Bible, The 23rd Psalm and Ecclesiastes 3: "To every thing there is a season".
Among my favorite selections are, Christina Rossetti's "Hurt No Living Thing"...
Hurt no living thing;
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wind,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat.
Nor harmless worms that creep.
and Beatrice Schenk de Regnier's "Keep A Poem In Your Pocket".
Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you're in bed.
There are dozens of poems that will bring back memories of childhood and they are assembled in a way that make them easy to share with the children in your life, but this is actually a book for all ages. Each section is introduced by Ms. Kennedy who has also shared two poems written by her mother, "Thoughts" and "Sea Joy" by Jacqueline Bouvier. Poetry is something Caroline learned to appreciate from her mother, who encouraged her to find a poem she loved and make a card with it rather than buy birthday or Mother's Day cards.
The watercolor illustrations by Jon J. Muth are outstanding. The pictures add such richness and delightful imagination to the verses. There are a half a dozen poems translated from a foreign language like, "from Imagine Angels" by Guillaume Apollinaire and "Has My Heart Gone to Sleep?" by Antonio Machado. She has included a section in the back of the book where the poems are shown in their original languages.
In 2001, Caroline Kennedy compiled THE BEST LOVED POEMS OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS. A FAMILY OF POEMS is her sequel to that work. The cover art features an adorable picture of Caroline as a child sitting in a chair reading to her teddy bear. This is a wonderful book to own and share with the generations in your family.
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