Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Book Review

One Christmas, my girlfriend gave my oldest daughter a copy of Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield. My daughter loved the collection of poetry. When she read it to me, the words took me back to my own childhood. The 70s references, the expressions about family and play and sadness strike a chord with me that vibrates in each line, each poem. And because my daughter could relate to the poems, there is an even deeper connection for me. One of my favorite poems is the title piece, “Honey, I Love.” The opening stanza reads:

I love
I love of lot of things, a whole lot of things
My cousin comes to visit and you know he’s from the South
‘Cause every word he says just kind of slides out of his mouth
I like the way he whistles and I like the way he walks
But honey, let me tell you that I LOVE the way he talks
I love the way my cousin talks.

Another favorite is one my daughter memorized and recited. I smile each time I think back to her sharing it with me. A few lines from “Way Down In The Music” read:

I get way down in the music
Down inside the music…

Inside the sound of the Jackson Five
Into the tune of Earth, Wind and Fire
Down in the bass where the beat comes from
Down in the horn and down in the drum
I get down
I get down

When my second daughter was old enough, I bought her a copy of her own. Her sister, ten years her senior, made it clear that under no circumstances was she going to share her favorite childhood collection with her sister. She loved her, but sharing this book was asking too much.

My youngest daughter fell in love with the collection, too. And oddly, her favorite is “Way Down In The Music.” She has recited this poem for family and friends on a couple of occasions. My youngest is quite the performer. Her small body had all the theatrics to make this poem even more memorable.

I love the rhythm and the sounds Greenfield creates, and the illustrations are a perfect match in tone and style. The images are a combination of muted gold against, exaggerated, black and white pencil sketches with soft edges. The hair and clothing is quintessential 70s. You just don't see the words here, you feel the water from the hose spraying you. You reflexively squeeze the nickel from Mrs. Williams tightly in your fist. You can smell your mother’s scent on her coat. Reading Honey, I Love is like soaring in a swing. There’s no worry and no thoughts beyond going higher and faster. Your lungs are full with air and spontaneous laughter. Greenfield’s poems tickle. They feel good on your tongue. They dance with no mind to who’s watching or how they look.

Sometimes, though, there is no dancing. Her poems about relatives make me sad and happy at the same time. They remind me of those who loved me deeply and whom I miss very much. “Aunt Roberta” was my auntie and I remember my mother’s fine clothes, too. No one’s mother was prettier than my mother. Greenfield’s poems are affirmation personified. Pride in our history and our culture is celebrated here in an easy, natural way. Reading this collection reminds me of playing hopscotch: You jump and skip and jump and skip. Remembering my childhood never gets old.

I invite you to hear the music. Dance with Honey, I Love. It feels almost as good as your mother enfolding you in her arms.

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