A small, sweet collection of poems inspired by kindergartners, Climbing Shadows offers a child’s-eye view of moments like a bad day at school (“I’m going to go home and tell my dad/today was hard it was so hard/I don’t want to go anymore/I want/to be a puddle”) or a child’s explanation of imagination (“I see things in my head come loose on the paper and there are my eyes here, and my names and my trees and faces and crazy squiggles and also this is a drawing of my family because I usually draw what I miss or what I love”). There are 20 poems in this collection, created by poet Shannon Bramer during the time she worked as a lunchtime supervisor for a kindergarten class. She eventually began reading poetry to them and explained that she was also a poet; the kids’ fascination grew as they learned that anyone could be a poet – “a poet could be a mom” – and a poem could be about anything. Shannon Bramer wrote these poems for her “kindies”.
The poems are sweet, short, and are a nice introduction to poetry for children; they show that a poem doesn’t have to rhyme, and can ramble, freely, like a thought or a stream. Cindy Derby’s watercolor, India ink, and digital collage illustrations are often dreamlike, with muted colors that set the stage for Ms. Bramer’s words to transport readers. It’s a great way to get kids writing about what’s on their minds at the moment. An author’s note explains how the author was inspired by the kids and is just as lovely to read as the poems are, with each child’s name illustrated around the page.