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

By Booklist

This is a very nicely put together package. It contains the life of the famed haiku poet Issa (1763-1827), told in simple language; lots of his exquisite and accessible haiku; limpid watercolor and colored pencil illustrations reminiscent of Japanese prints and drawings; and beautiful Japanese calligraphy-the poems themselves-on every page. Gollub has taken the outlines of Issa’s life-the loss of his mother, his leaving home at age 14 to escape his stepmother, his study and teaching of haiku from a very young age, and his return to nurse his dying father and start his own family-and used them to illuminate the poetry. Haiku’s brevity and structure; its link, often implied, to a particular season; and Issa’s affection for the tiniest of creatures, like dragonflies and sparrow chicks, are transparent in the poems even before they are explained in the author’s notes. “A giant peony, / rich and full, / surely the God of Wealth dwells within.”