Weekend Picture Book Selection! 11/12-11/13

by Tilly Thyme on November 13, 2011

A Child’s Calendar

Poems by John Updike

Illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

Quickly …. pick your favorite month of the year.  Shall we choose November?

The stripped and shapely

Maple grieves

The loss of her

Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,

As hard as stone.

The year is old,

The birds are flown.

And yet the world,


Displays a certain

Loveliness —

The beauty of

The Bone. Tall God

Must see our souls

This way, and nod.

Give thanks: we do,

Each in his place

Around the table

During grace.

Together Hyman’s illustrations and Updike’s poetry playfully consider the activities in a child’s life and the changes in the weather as the year moves from January to December.

June’s rich sun, golden hours, and silver days bring “Little League, hopscotch, the creek, and, after supper, hide-and-seek.”

August offers trees bored with being as people leave the local scene, “and go to seaside bungalows and take off nearly all their clothes.”

In September, we smell “ripe fruit, old footballs, drying grass, new books and blackboard, and chalk” on the the air.

And on the months pass, each lovingly depicted in this Caldecott Honor book.  Young children may be more interested in the illustrations than the reflective verse, but there is something here for each of us, no matter our age.

Perhaps Shawn Brommer said it best in his 1999 review of A Child’s Calendar:

“There is a sense of relaxed timelessness here. Updike urges readers to stop and enjoy the glories in each day, such as in March when “The mud smells happy/On our shoes./We still wear mittens,/Which we lose.” When read aloud, the poetry sings from one stanza to the next through gentle rhymes and rhythms that are never forced. […] The paintings have an unpretentious, homey quality as they capture boys exploring in a creek, a toddler’s bare-bottomed joy in the August sunshine, and a family’s contemplative stroll beneath bare November maples. Readers will recognize bits and pieces of their own lives in this reflective gem.”

What I love most about this slim selection of verse and image is the fact that it speaks to us from month to month, year to year.  It is a book that will never be outgrown, so find a place for it on your child’s bookshelf, reach for it from time to time, and know that it will still call out to you when that very child enters high school, leaves for college, finds a first job, marries, and (can you imagine it?) has children of his or her own.

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