Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mirror Mirror - Marilyn Singer

Title: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse
Author: Marilyn Singer (Illustrated by Josee Masse)
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books (Penguin), 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book, Fairy Tale
Started: December 9, 2010
Finished: December 9, 2010

From the inside cover:

Isn't this a fairy tale?
A fairy tale this isn't...

There are two sides to every story, from princess and frog, to beauty and the beast, to Sleeping Beauty and that charming prince. Now, in a unique collection of reversible verse, classic fairy tales are turned on their heads. Literally. Read these clever poems from top to bottom. Then reverse the lines and read from bottom to top to give these well-loved stories a delicious new spin.

Witty, irreverent, and exquisitely illustrated, this unique collection holds cheeky mirror up to language and fairy tales, and renews the magic of both.

I was introduced to many excellent sophisticated picture books (meaning that they can be enjoyed by older readers too) during my literacy course for teachers that I took over the summer, and I'm constantly on the look out for more. I should really review the ones I ended up buying over the summer, because all of them can be used in a classroom to illustrate a concept taught in language class (pardon my pun).

I adore this book, mostly because the concept is so unique. The author wrote poems based on one point of view from various classic fairy tales, but when you read those same poems from bottom to top (reversing the original poem), you get a poem from a completely different point of view from the same fairy tale! The book has both poems printed side by side on the same page for effect, along with a picture on the opposite side that's split in two representing the two points of view. For example, one of the poems is about Cinderella being all "woe is me" about her usual situation in stuck doing chores without being able to go to the ball. When you read the reversed version of that same poem right beside the original, you're hearing from both stepsisters saying how unfair it is that Cinderella is hogging the prince to herself and actually makes you feel sorry for them. The beauty of it is that the words are exactly the same...only the punctuation and capitalization are different from the poem on the left to the reversed poem on the right.

Each fairy tale in the book gets this same treatment, and I can't express how wonderful the whole thing is by the time you're done. This book not only works as entertainment due to the fairy tales, but it can also be used to teach poetry, as well as point of view. When I teach older students about point of view, I always use fractured fairy tales (specifically The True Story of The Three Little Pigs by John Scieszka) in the lesson and then have them recreate their own fractured fairy tale to show they understand how different points of view can give a completely different view of the same story. After coming across this little gem of a book however, I'm going to start using this one as well. If I was ambitious I'd even want to have students create their own "reverso" poem (as the author calls them), but I don't even think I'd be able to pick the right words that mean something completely different when read in reverse order let alone a 13 year old, but my students always surprise me (sometimes in ways I actually appreciate), so I think I would try this with them eventually.

You have to read this book, trust me. I'm not saying this because I'm a teacher and I think it can be educational (which it can), but for a pure level of enjoyment too. This is one of the most innovative books I've read this year, and it's definitely going on gift lists for various people and kids.

Thoughts on the cover:
The illustrations really help make this book what it is. These pictures show two halves of the same thing and they blend in so well that the pictures play with your mind just as much as the poems do.

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