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List poems and design

I have always been fond of list poems. Perhaps that's because I was weaned on A. A. Milne, and his list poems were so perfect. So when our library acquired Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard, I snapped it up, ready to be charmed.

cover

And to be fair, there are many charming poems in the collection.

Naomi Shihab Nye's "Words In My Pillow" lists happy, tasty, colorful words that wait for her in her pillow all day. It made me think that I, too, should store some of my own to relish before I go to sleep. And I'd love to keep Avis Harley's "Ways to Greet a Friend" on hand when meeting new people.

But the design. . .

You note the vertical cover. No, the spine is not on the left side. It's on top. You open the book up, narrow ends on top and bottom. The conceit is that the poems appear like lists, shopping lists, on a narrow page. When opened, the book is 20 inches long, from top to bottom. (That's 51 centimeters.)

Now I have an adult-sized lap. But to be able to read the poems, I had to keep on adjusting the book, sliding it up and down against my chest, flipping it sideways then upside-down, all to follow the text. It was truly annoying. I eventually realized that the only easy way to read it was to lay it on a table, with lots of spare room, and even then I had to flip up one side vertically when I wasn't spinning it around.

I do expect a certain amount of play with words, text, and layout in a children's book. But I don't expect the book to be physically difficult to read. This isn't my adult brain unable to grasp kid-friendly, innovative design. There are no pictures, flip outs or pop ups. This is a text centered book. But when I want to read the words, the book becomes hard to handle. A smaller person would only find it more unwieldy.

In another one of Avis Harley's poems, "Booktime," she lists places to read a book, evoking myriad of settings, times and moods. Unfortunately, this book would hardly fit in any of those spaces.

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