Sidman, Joyce. 2006. Meow ruff: A story in concrete poetry. Ill. by Michelle Berg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618448942
Through poetry, the author tells the story of a cat and dog who get caught in a rainstorm. Each shape poem describes the trees, grass, house, and even the picnic table. The animals come to life through their poetic speech bubbles. The interesting shape designs of the artwork only further enhances the shape and wording of the poetry. It also creates endearing characters that create interest in the story.
This beautiful collection of poems tell a quaint story of an unlikely friendship. In addition to providing an excellent opportunity for expanding a young reader's vocabulary, the words chosen for the poems perfectly describe and build interest in their subjects. The cloud poems are especially fun as they changed throughout the story to reflect the onset and decline of a thunderstorm.
The illustrations also served to enhance the poems as they further defined their intended shapes. In those places where the poem couldn't take the shape of its subject, the illustrations still kept the shape theme. Overall, the poems and illustrations melded together to form an inviting and interesting story.
Professional Review Excerpts
from School Library Journal Using concrete poetry as the vehicle, Sidman relates a simple story. A small dog escapes from its house and a little cat is abandoned at curbside. These natural enemies meet at a neighborhood park where, forced to wait out a thunderstorm under a picnic table, they take comfort in huddling together and later emerge as buddies. The adjective-loaded unrhymed verse is actually a series of descriptive phrases that have been compressed and arranged to create elements of the artwork. For example, the words large/white steamy/bread loaves rising/in the sun's bright heat/a billowing batch/of cumulus are printed in white and presented in the shape of a cloud, while patchwork, rabbit-nibbled, mower-cropped, wind-whispered grass fills a green border along the bottom of the page. Computer-generated cartoon graphics of the cat, dog, three crows, and other animals are set against a sky-blue background. Some details (the dog's tail and ears; a bird's wings) have gray-toned shadows that indicate movement. Some of the language is creative, and the beat is catchy, but occasionally the crowded monochromatic text is difficult to read, and many of the pages are cluttered with words and graphics.
from Booklist *Starred Review* It's typically said of picture books that art and text are inseparable, but the truth of that has rarely been more evident than it is in this introduction to concrete poetry--which, unlike most books about the form, doesn't just collect unrelated poems, but tells a story through them. With the same creativity of expression that marked Song of the Waterboatman (2005), a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book, Sidman develops a simple tale about a cat and dog trapped in a rainstorm, coding much of the substance right into the physical landscape. Indicating the coming downpour, for instance, cloud-poems build from a single word (wisp) to free verse dense with ominous imagery ("Thunder-plumped seething mass of gloomy fuming"); raindrop-poems, descending vertically from the clouds, intensifying from the merest "drips" to "monster splats" to "stinging ropes of water." Berg, who created the pictures digitally and is also the book's graphic designer, intelligently showcases the concept of words as building blocks in a stylized landscape of flat colors, two-dimensional forms, and wildly mutating typefaces.
~ This is an excellent example in shape poems for a unit in the study of poems.
~ This book could also be used to teach the definition and use of adjectives.
~ The description of the clouds and precipitation of the rainstorm would be an excellent resource for the study of weather.