A Fan Letter to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

March 26, 2013 @ 6:34 pm | Filed under: , , , , ,

Book cover: Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley.

Dear Amy,

My name is Rilla. I am 6. Mommy read Forest Has a Song to me. I think that It Is really pretty poetry and i also think that deer are pretty too. I really love nature. And deer are one of my favorite animals and it said a lot about deer. In the picture of the fiddlehead ferns, I really like the pattern of the colors. And the fossil looks so realistic. When I grow up i want to be an illustrator like Robbin Gourley. And also, i love the Spider poem and the Dusk poem. I love the never-tangling dangling spinner part. And I love baby animals. They’re so cute and fluffy when they’re birds at least.

One of my favorites is “Farewell.” How it says “I am Forest.”


(Doggone spellcheck. She made me correct all her invented spellings—the red dots under her words tipped her off. Then again, “rhille priddy powatre” might have been hard for you to parse. Also, of course, recognizing that a word just looks wrong is a big step toward learning to spell and I can’t very well stand in the way of that progress just because the invented stuff is adorable.)

As for the book, I wholeheartedly agree with Rilla’s review. What a gorgeous, gorgeous volume. The poems sometimes wistful, sometimes whimsical, always lyrical. Beautiful for reading aloud, full of delicious internal rhyme and alliteration. And infectious: I predict a lot of original nature poetry in our future. This collection begs you to take a fresh look at the world around you and see the magic of the curled fern frond, the mushroom spore. Of course I’ve been a fan of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s work for years.

I can’t imagine a more perfect pairing for Amy’s poems than Robbin Gourley’s art. Lush watercolors, rich and soft. I kept coming across pages I’d like prints of. Actually, this is exactly the kind of book where you want a second copy for cutting up and framing. (If you can bear to. I always think I’d like to do that, but the one time I actually bought a spare copy for this purpose—Miss Rumphius—I couldn’t, in the end, bring myself to dismantle it.)

Beanie’s favorite poem was “Forest News”—

I stop to read
the Forest News
in mud or fallen snow.
Articles are printed
by critters on the go…

—which she loved for its intriguing animal-tracks descriptions, its sense of fun, and its kinship with her favorite Robert Frost poem, “A Patch of Old Snow.” (“It is speckled with grime as if / Small print overspread it, / The news of a day I’ve forgotten — / If I ever read it,” writes Frost, perusing a somewhat more somber edition of the woodsy chronicle.)

Wonderboy’s favorite was the puffball poem, and he later wrote (in his customary stream-of-consciousness style) this string of impressions the book made on him: “dead branch  warning and woodpecker too  dusk  burrow in a burrow chickadee sit on my hand  and come fly here”…

Truly beautiful work, Amy and Robbin.

Related post: The Poem House

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4 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Avatar

    Julie says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. Sounds wonderful.

  2. Avatar

    Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says:

    Dear Rilla,

    Thank you so much for your very kind review of our book! Robbin and I were just talking about your letter, and it means a lot to us that you enjoyed reading it. One of my favorite parts of this writing journey was seeing Robbin’s beautiful illustrations – as you probably know, they were a complete surprise to me, and I did not see even one until they were all finished. I love the realism of the fossil and the fiddleheads, and I adore that chickadee and owl. The page where the mom puts her arm around the girl is so sweet. If you and your siblings decide to write some nature poems of your own, I would love to read them. Here in NY state, it’s getting to be almost time for spring drawings and poems…hooray!

    All warm wishes and goodness to you and your family for many adventures outside: turning over logs, holding chickadees (you really can!), looking at woodland flowers…


    Much gratitude to you, Melissa, for sharing your children’s thoughts and feelings about our new book. Knowing that children are reading and enjoying the pages is the very best feeling of all. Thank you so much! xo, a.

  3. Avatar

    Janet Wong says:

    I think you need to make a gold sticker that says “Rhille Priddy Powatre”–I’ll happily buy a hundred of those!

  4. Avatar

    Jeanne says:

    And that Wonderboy: ““dead branch warning and woodpecker too dusk burrow in a burrow chickadee sit on my hand and come fly here” — lovely the way he breathes these words.