Cool Melons— Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

By Kirkus Reviews

Gollub (Uncle Snake, 1996, etc.) translates 33 of Issa’s more than 20,000 haiku, intersperses them through a short biography, and caps it all with an explanation of some of the poems’ less obvious images. with the Japanese originals running decoratively along their margins, Stone’s appealing formal paintings illustrate the poems literally: children in traditional dress stand with their mouths up and open as “Mouth-watering snowflakes fall/lightly, lightly/Heaven’s snack,” and green melons in a basket do “turn to frogs/If people come near.” Gollub explains that the haiku are not presented chronologically, so any connections between them and specific instances in Issa’s life are speculative. Nevertheless, readers will get a glimpse of the poet’s extraordinary range of subject and feeling, as well as cogent instruction in how to read and understand these deceptively simple verses.