BOOK REVIEW: Out and About: A First Book of Poems

We have had an unseasonably hot summer here in Portland, and I am ready to say goodbye to it. I am looking forward to my favorite season: Autumn. Cooler temperatures, the burst of colors on and off trees, the wind blowing, and an explosion of mushrooms at some favorite natural areas. In fact, cooler temperatures came along with September, and although Autumn does not officially begin until September 23, leaves are turning and falling already.

Thus I was drawn to this cover of a new edition of classic children’s author and illustrator Shirley Hughes‘ 1988 collection of poems about exploring outside through the seasons:

Shirley Hughes, Out and About: A First Book of Poems (Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015), 45 pp.

Geared toward the preschooler, there is much to like in this book at any age. The poems are organized by season, starting with Spring. The book begins with its namesake poem, “Out and About,” immersing young girl Katie (whom we follow throughout the book), stick in hand and sporting “Shiny boots, / Brand new,” along a path from her house and into nature. Other poems for spring show the fun to be had in mud, characteristics of the season, climbing a large hill, and the emerging Summer: “Trees full of candles / Alight in the park. / Sunshine at bedtime – / Why isn’t it dark?” In summer, kids splash and play at the beach, a community pool, and a backyard pool with friends from all over the neighborhood. “Squirting rainbows, / Sunbeam flashes, / Backyards full / Of shrieks and splashes!” Hughes’ lively paintings of kids at play in numerous settings compliment her descriptions of play in verse. My favorite summer poem shows Katie finding a special place in a “grass house” where “nobody can see me.” Vibrant colors and delicious foods welcome Autumn, with wind and rain. “I do like the wind,” Katie says, whereas she looks a little unsure about the “Dark clouds, / Rain again.” Autumn also brings “Muddy boots, / Muddy knees” while “Red, lemon, / Orange, and brown – / Silently, softly, / The leaves float down.” With Winter, Katie gets sick, enjoys a fire with family and friends, and feels the cold on her fingers and toes.

Kids and parents alike will enjoy reading about and seeing the changes of the seasons and following along on all the activities that Katie is lucky to do. Whether you’re already an outdoor family or want to inspire a friend, Out and About: A First Book of Poems would make a happy home on a family bookshelf.



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