Sometimes, a book comes across my desk that sparkles like a gem, attracting my attention, insisting that I stop what I’m doing and read it. This happened when With My Hands: Poems about Making Things arrived last week. I thought I’d take a peek. Next thing you know, I was closing the last page of the book, sighing with contentment. And then I knew I had to read the book all over again.
I’ve been interested in making things since I can first remember. Whether I was creating a pegboard town with my Playskool set or helping my grandmother make pie crust or giving my grandfather a hand in his shop, or sewing small items to decorate my Barbie doll house … I still feel best when my hands, mind, and heart are busy. When creativity is awake and satisfied.
This book will serve as inspiration, recognition, and encouragement. It will awaken a dormant maker and help a persistent maker sit up and feel good about what they do.
VanDerwater’s poetry is understandable. It reads out loud well. It is often brief. Her word choice is palpable … I find myself cheering her selections.
The illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher are brilliant. From the first spread, “Maker,” with the art based on fingerprints (I can do that!) and a hillside of clover, to the last spread “Shadow Show,” with its example of a shadow puppet that echoes spirals, the inspiration for art-making is full of detail and subtle ideas to launch your own work. I particularly enjoy those spreads where two disparate poems are united by the illustrations. That provides inspiration, too!
My excitement level after reading this book was high. Much like the Olympics create possibilities in young minds, this book encourages the can-do spirit.
Poetry? Give the different forms a try. Craft with words. Origami? Leaf pictures? Making a piñata? Tie-dying? Soap carving? The subtle humor in VanDerwater’s poetry and the Johnson Fanchers’ art keeps readers’ spirits high.
“I cut a parachute from plastic
tied my guy on with elastic
threw him from a window (drastic)
watched him drift to earth—fantastic!”
The Army Guy tied to the plastic parachute, drifting down to the boat featured in the next poem … this is the kind of poetry everyone can enjoy, the inspiration everyone needs.
With My Hands: Poems about Making Things
written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Clarion Books, March 27, 2018