Re-thinking the Poetry Collection: Think Again

Perfectly moody cover for "Think Again"

When you work in a bookstore every day is like Christmas, especially when a shipment of new titles from Kids Can Press comes in! The first new book to catch my eye was Think Again. This book has so many of my favourite things I’m not sure where to begin. Poetry! Line drawings! Beautiful design! KCP Poetry! Let the gushing commence!

 Firstly, Julie Morstad. Oh how I love Julie’s illustrations. Somehow her images manage to be both melancholic and whimsical. There is a Gorey-ish tone to the illustrations in this book, and yet I am simultaneously reminded of Shel Silverstein’s wacky line drawings. How does she do that? In the world of children’s literature, Julie is most well known as the illustrator of the award-winning When You Were Small, which was the recipient of the 2007 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Julie’s work has also been featured on album covers , graced art galleries, and even spruced up a wall or two.

Julie’s spare images work well with the simplicity of JonArno Lawson’s lovely poems.  Each poem is four lines long, having the effect of haiku; quiet observations on life that make the reader go “Hmmm.” Which brings me to the second amazing thing about this book- it’s published by KCP Poetry, the imprint that brought us the sublime and award winning Owl and the Pussycat, as envisioned by Stephane Jorisch, and more recently, My Letter to The World and Other Poems, a sampling of Emily Dickinson’s work illustrated with haunting acumen by Isabelle Arsenault. This little-imprint-that-could has garnered much critical acclaim and deserves a standing ovation for presenting poetry to young readers. I have the entire Visions in Poetry collection on my personal bookshelf, and each title is as brilliant as the next. So it’s not surprising that Think Again, a thoughtful and beautifully designed little book, is brought to you by the very same people.

Think Again is not just a collection of poetry. To the careful observer there is a story that develops between the poems, assisted by the illustrations, of a young man and young woman who meet, fall in love, and then part ways. At least I think they part ways. Part of the genuis of the book is the subtleties. Each reader will take their own version of events away from the poems.

Consider pages 16 and 17- two poems, on opposing pages, accompanied by the boy and the girl, each sitting on their own rock, separated by a narrow river, and of course, the divide between the pages. Although the poems (“My Dad” and “Are You Worried”) can be read and enjoyed independently, their placement and Morstad’s visual creates a conversation between the two. This particular combination of text and image capture that delicious moment in a relationship where people open up and share intimate thoughts with each other for the first time.

I can see this book appealing to young teens and aspiring writers and artists. This is the kind of book I would have loved to receive as a 13 year old, bookish and starry-eyed and ready to taste the world. It would make a lovely gift for a young person at an important moment in his or her life, whether it be a birthday, graduation, or a “just because” gift for someone who is having a rough go of it in the wilds of adolescence. 

Want a second opinion? Check out the Quill’s review!

Think Again, by JonArno Lawson and Julie Morstad, is available now from KCP Poetry, an imprint of Kids Can Press.

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