For Young Readers

Book review: 'Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse,' by Marilyn Singer and Josée Masse

(Courtesy Of Dutton - Courtesy Of Dutton)
  Enlarge Photo    
Wednesday, April 7, 2010


A Book of Reversible Verse

By Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Josée Masse

Dutton. $16.99, ages 8 and up

Try writing a poem that, when read backward, still makes sense but means the exact opposite. Now illustrate it with a picture that does the same thing when split down the middle or divided top-to-bottom. Give up? Reading "Mirror Mirror" provides a jovial incentive to try writing a "reverso," a unique and intriguing form created by Marilyn Singer. In this intriguing collection, each poem is a highly abbreviated version of a traditional fairy tale -- of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel -- which turns the familiar into something surprising. "Rumpelstiltskin," for example, cleverly begins by asking readers to name the title character (which is, after all, the central question of the tale). But the reverso version ends by asking readers to identify the traditionally nameless heroine. The accompanying illustration -- lushly colored and highly stylized -- groups the elements of the story in a circle: A spinning wheel at the center morphs into the round entrance of the little gnome's cave; smoke from the fire at the cave's entrance rises to spell out the secret name before drifting off to create spun gold, which connects to the straw, which becomes the sticks, which feed the fire. And that's only one of more than a dozen remarkable puzzle-poem-pictures. Sound like fun? Read. Reverse. Get ready to write!

-- Kristi Jemtegaard

© 2010 The Washington Post Company