July 16, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

MIRROR, MIRROR by Marilyn Singer; Illustrated by Josee Masse (Dutton, 2010)
GENRE: Poetry / Fantasy

REVIEW: Marilyn Singer plays with an interesting concept in Mirror, Mirror. The poems are all distillations of familiar fairy tales, but the verse is "reversible," which is where things get slightly dicey. The concept of reversible verse is a good one. The poems are meant to have different meanings, depending on whether or not one is reading them front to back or back to front. To aid in this exercise, Singer presents the two versions of each poem side by side as mirror images of the other. Many of the reversals are quite successful, (Rapunzel and Cinderella particularly stand out), but others, (like the Red Riding Hood poem among several others), work well enough in one direction but become forced and nonsensical in the other. That said, Josee Masse's illustrations are lovely, with lush colors and pleasingly rounded, clean lines. Each story receives an illustration and each illustration captures the essence of both the original tale and Singer's poem with charming efficiency. As distillations of well-known stories, the poems are easy to enjoy. 

OPINION: Overall, Mirror, Mirror is very good book and an excellent way to encourage tweens resistant to poetry to give it a try. The tales are familiar and intriguingly presented, providing plenty of opportunity for discussion and individual interpretation. The illustrations are warm and inviting, while the puzzle-like nature of the verse gives the poems a playful quality that belies many kids' assumption that poetry is stuffy and unwelcoming.

IDEAS: Selections of Mirror, Mirror would make a nice addition to classroom discussions on fairy tales and / or poetic form, so long as you cherry-pick a handful rather than present the whole.

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