“Autumn, are you dreaming?”: Review of Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth

IMG_0572Follow Koo, the huggable panda bear and his two friends through all four seasons in this book of haiku, which is a short Japanese poem about nature and the moment.

This book is a great way to introduce young children to poetry. A haiku is a short enough format that it can be a gateway to explaining to children what makes a poem a poem. Poetry is often a difficult concept for children to understand and so frequent and early exposure is a good idea.

If your child is in K-2 grade and is learning or struggling with punctuation, this book may need some additional explanation and context, for it does not contain periods at the end of the sentences. Periods are often taught early in K or 1st grade as a good way for children to understand when to pause and when a thought ends. However, if this is a book you are reading together with them and are therefore modeling the ending of the sentence with your own pause, it is a great lesson for the child about the creativity of poetry and how fluid and interesting the English language can be.

This book is a great way to connect narrative with imagery for children, for every short phrase has an appealing and imaginative corresponding image illustrated in watercolor and ink by the author, Jon J. Muth. A skill important for children learning to read is the connection between what is happening in the text with what the picture is showing. This is a first step in comprehension.

The short pages and constant change of topic matches the attention span of a young child. These haiku are fun and funny, jumping from moment to moment in the playtime of the panda and his two friends.

This book does not really have a classic plot but instead is a great tool to teach a child about the wonders of the four seasons with imaginative imagery and a lovable panda friend.

Children’s books are often poems in themselves with short lines and catchy endings. This book just takes this poem-like quality to the next level, incorporating formal poems in a catchy way. Despite the winter landscape the book describes, the story is very warm and whimsical: the panda says that “Eating warm cookies/on a cold day/ is easy.” The panda reminded us of Kung Fu Panda, so the child may identify with it even more.

The storyline often verges on the fantastical, with nests growing on heads and the wind pulling the panda off the ground. We explore the imagination of a panda child and the fun he has outside and inside. The magic of nature, with its fireflies, birds, and beautiful sky to fly kites, fills the book to the brim with wonder.

After you read this book a couple of times with your child, have them practice some haikus!

Review by Faina Dookh and Sophia Vasylyk


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