cover image Imagine


Juan Felipe Herrera, illus. by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9052-6

Each stanza of this verse memoir by former U.S. Poet Laureate Herrera ends with the word “imagine.” Is it a sigh, or is it an imperative? “If I let tadpoles/ swim across my hands/ in the wavy creek,/ imagine,” he writes about his early childhood. Entering his English-speaking school was a challenge—he spoke Spanish—yet language fascinated him, and he began to write stories, poems, and songs: “If I grabbed a handful/ of words/ I had never heard and/ sprinkled them over a paragraph... imagine.” As an adult, he stood on the steps of the Library of Congress as poet laureate. Now he fills out the sentence that begins with the word imagine: “Imagine what you could do.” Spacious, light-filled spreads by Castillo (Nana in the City) conjure up landscapes of red earth, bright sun, and long views. Herrera writes of the joy of creation and discovery, and says little about the hardships he must have undergone. The story of a brown-skinned boy who “practiced/ spelling words/ in English by/ saying them in Spanish/ like—pehn-seel for/ pencil” reaching recognition as the nation’s most lauded poet offers a heartening narrative of hope: “imagine.” Ages 5–9. [em]Illustrator’s agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary. (Oct.) [/em]