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

By School Library Journal

A successful collaboration of verse and prose that brings a famous 18th-century poet to life. Gollub’s original translations of Issa’s haiku are interspersed with biographical narrative (slightly fictionalized) so that each one lends context to the other. Each poem is illustrated with a realistic spot of framed watercolor-and-colored-pencil picture, and rendered in Japanese calligraphy in the outer margin. Stone elaborates on her artistic research in endnotes. Gollub explains how he went about his translations so that readers can understand what to look for and what’s lost. Although just an introduction, this book explains a lot about haiku and those who wrote it, information not usually included in books written for this age level. However, no mention was made of what made Issa so different from his predecessors—his poetry had a casualness and sense of humor that was both criticized and popular. Along with Dawnine Spivak’s Grass Sandals (Athenium, 1997), this book works at restoring the historical and literary context to this popular form of poetry as well as at instilling an appreciation for one of its most enjoyable practitioners.