cover image CARTWHEEL TO THE MOON: My Sicilian Childhood

CARTWHEEL TO THE MOON: My Sicilian Childhood

Emanuel di Pasquale, , ed. by Marianne Carus, illus. by K. Dyble Thompson. . Cricket, $16.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-8126-2679-7

While warm and bright, this nostalgic collection of mostly untitled poems about the poet's childhood in '40s and '50s Sicily seems better suited for adults than children. A keen observer, di Pasquale describes the countryside and people he remembers with sharp, quick images. The hills in mid-March "are red-headed boys/ with tough crew cuts." The hawk "startles the sun" as it "stretch[es] its shadow ahead of itself." Many poems address universal experiences within the grasp of children—learning from a grandparent, riding a carousel, visiting a grave—but many more require readers to decipher complicated metaphors and references. For example, when a neighbor butchers his Easter lamb, the speaker "think[s] of the Easter Rebirth,/ when Christ heals His wounds,/ and I jump from the highest stairs/ and roll His name/ on the tip of my tight tongue/ and fall and fall/ and never get hurt,/ while swallows circle/ like black halos/ over my head." Time sequences are jumbled, too, making the division of the poems into seasons confusing. A lengthy, heart-tugging poem about the funeral of the speaker's father appears in the section titled "Summer," but then it is followed by a poem about the father and child watching fireworks in "Fall." Reproduced in a steely blue gray that matches the type, Thompson's (My Name Is Maria Isabel) pen-and-ink drawings bring a gentle, shimmering light to the wistful verse. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)