Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: Hi, Koo! (Poetry for Primary Students)

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons
By Jon J. Muth
ISBN: 9780545166683
February 2014
32 pages

Bibliographic Information
Muth, J. J. (2014). Hi, Koo!: A year of seasons. New York: Scholastic Press.

Plot Description
With a Haiku poem and accompanying illustration on each page, the reader follows the adorable panda Koo through a full calendar year. With the book divided into four parts based on the seasons, readers are treated to glimpses of captured moments. Starting in the fall, Koo observes falling leaves and experiences the cooling temperature. Koo encounters snow in the winter, enjoys new signs of life in the spring, and plays in the summer. Particularly when read along with the introductory Author's Note, this is a great introduction to Haiku and how it functions "like an instant captured in words."

Quantitative Reading Level
ATOS: 2.3

Qualitative Reading Analysis (Medium for Grades 2-3)
The quantitative ATOS rating of 2.3 seems to match well with the qualitative complexity of the text. Language features such as vocabulary should be mostly familiar, and in fact, there is little text in general. Furthermore, while some readers may find it challenging that the poems are not written using traditional sentence structure, luckily the illustrations are helpful when it comes to constructing meaning. Still, the book extends some complexity through the use of figurative language. Phrases that may prompt deeper discussion include "my crown a gift from a snowy branch." Students may deduce what this means and how it functions differently from simply saying that snow fell from a tree onto Koo's head. There are also higher level literary devices used such as personification (e.g., "shadows climbing trees") and metaphor (e.g., fireflies are compared to "blinking stars").

Content Areas
  • English Language Arts (poetry)
  • Art (visual storytelling)
  • Science (seasons and weather)

Content Area Standards

Curriculum Suggestions
  • Inference - The teacher may share a single Haiku from the book without providing context regarding what season section it has come from. Students may then propose what season they believe it belongs in and argue why they have come to this conclusion.
  • Imagery - Either before or after reading the book, students may create their own illustrations based solely on text from the book. Afterward, comparisons may be made regarding the different ways that text may be interpreted and imagined.
  • Literary Forms - To compare the way that Haiku conveys meaning versus a narrative text, students may use artwork from the book and write a short story about the scene. Then, students may compare and contrast short story and poem versions.
  • Creative Writing - Students may identify moments from their own lives, writing their own Haiku poems and creating accompanying illustrations.. The teacher may provide suggestions such as selecting a favorite photograph as a starting point. 

Subjects and Themes
  • Nature and cycles
  • Seasons and weather
  • Friendship and play
  • Kinship with animals


Links to Supporting Digital Content
Personal Thoughts
I love Muth's artwork, and think that the poems work perfectly in partnership with the illustrations. I appreciate that there are some light moments of joy captured such as when Koo enjoys some "warm cookies on a cold day," but also deeper moments such as when he kills a bug and afterward feels "alone and Sad [sic]." It can be difficult to find poetry books for children that provide such thoughtful reflections without relying on catchy rhyming schemes. This is one that I highly recommend for young children, but also as a creative model for older students, as well.

Reviewed in conjunction with San Jose State University's School of Information Fall 2015 INFO 237-10 School Library Media Materials course. Fulfills "poetry for youth for K-5 students" for Subject Area Blog Assignment.

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