Friday, April 02, 2010

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse By Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Josée Masse

Reverso! This new poetic form that Marilyn Singer has created in Mirror, Mirror
elicits fresh perspectives from favorite tales. Have you ever thought about how Sleeping Beauty would get bored doing nothing but lying in bed, while her prince is not thrilled with fighting his way through the thorny bushes that have grown up around the castle? Consider how the newspaper story of the break-in at the cabin in the woods could be slanted toward either Goldilocks’ point of view OR the Three Bears’ victimization. Josée Masse’s richly colored, split illustrations mirror perfectly the thought processes explored in the reverso verses. A witch’s face folds into the hills and valleys that the Seven Dwarfs traverse from the mine, and Hansel’s locked prison door is reflected in the window to the outside where Gretel plots to save him.

Singer condenses a fairy tale into a poem of about a dozen short lines, and then Voila! She turns it upside-down! Literally! The clever and tricky word play is hard to explain, so here’s an example: Red Riding Hood happily heads to Grandma’s “in my hood, /skipping through the wood,” but the wolf sees her as a snack in his territory, “skipping through the wood/in my ‘hood.” Reverse the phrases all the way through, and you’ll see two sides to every story. Remember those assignments to write limericks or diamond poems or haiku? Reversos are just as much fun—and even more of a challenge. Teachers or parents could share this large-format picture book with children learning poetic forms and ask for attempts to tell other stories and even true-life situations (I’m thinking upper elementary, but you know your kids best).

I don’t know of another book that does what Mirror, Mirror does, but Marilyn Singer has written other books for children and teens, from I'm Your Bus , obviously told from an unusual perspective, to Face Relations.

For other fun approaches to learning about language, browse the 400’s in the nonfiction section of your Virginia Beach Public Library to find such gems as A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink and Up, Up and Away, by Brian P. Cleary and Ruth Heller respectively. For more poetry to enjoy, dig into the 800’s for Shel Silverstein and far, far beyond.
To get you started, here’s my first try at a reverso:

up there!
on the skyscraper--
hunting for
bad guys.
Watch out!

Watch out,
bad guys
hunting for
On the skyscraper
up there--

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