May 17, 2012

Mirror, Mirror
By Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Josee Masse
Primary Dutton 32 pp.
978-0525479017 Hardcover $16.99
Fiction / Poetry

Marilyn Singer plays with an interesting concept in Mirror, Mirror. The poems are all distillations of familiar fairy tales - very nice so far - but the verse is "reversible", which is where things begin to get dicey. The concept of reversible verse is a good one. The poems are meant to have different meanings, depending on whether or not one is reading them front to back or back to front. To aid in this exercise, Singer presents the two versions of each poem side by side as mirror images of the other. Some of these reversals are quite successful, (Rapunzel and Cinderella particularly stand out), but others, (like the Red Riding Hood poem among quite a few others), work well enough in one direction but become forced and nonsensical in the other. Given that the reversibility of the verse is the book's foundation, this flaw in execution undermines the whole. That said, Josee Masse's illustrations are lovely, with lush colors and pleasingly rounded, clean lines. Each story receives an illustration and each illustration captures the essence of both the original tale and Singer's poem with charming efficiency. As distillations of well-known stories, the poems are easy to enjoy. Overall, Mirror, Mirror is worth reading and selections would make a nice addition to storytimes for older children, so long as you cherry-pick a handful rather than through the whole.

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