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Book Review: Share from the Heart by Marilyn Randall

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What is the most important mission of children’s literature? What should a book accomplish? Should it entertain? Educate? Enlighten? I’m thinking the first thing it should do is hold a child’s attention. If the child loses interest only a little way into the story, the book has not accomplished its purpose. 

Share from the Heart is the story of a dragon befriended by two boys. Written and illustrated by Marilyn Randall, its intentions are excellent. Readers will, by the end of the story, learn that we should appreciate the things that make other people different, and we should embrace diversity. Randall is a poet, and she has written the story in poetic form. Unfortunately, it’s too much poetry. The story is too long to be read to a 21st-century American child in this form.

 A problem for the reader is the irregular meter employed; when you’re reading to a child you don’t want to keep re-reading lines in order to deliver the right nuance. Irregular meter can work in short couplets and poems (see Dr. Seuss), but Share from the Heart is not short. It is 21 pages, with the equivalent of 13 pages of poem. That doesn’t sound like much until you start reading it. 

Since rhyming poetry is the style employed in Share from the Heart, the momentum of the story is broken each time the reader encounters forced rhymes and nearly — but not — rhyming couplets (e.g., monster and closer, home and wrong). This can actually be disconcerting. 

I like poetry, and I’ve even written a few poems and songs, but I don’t especially enjoy reviewing poetry because it is so subjective (and because we poets are a wee bit “sensitive”). Who’s to say that an irregular verse pattern won’t become a standard type of poetry? Atonal is accepted (if not always adored) in the music world. An unconventional poet (aren’t they all?) may be inventing a new style, personal as it may be. 

In addition to liking poetry, I truly wanted to like this book. Even if I loved this book, though, that doesn’t mean a child would like it. As I was reading, I was rewriting and rephrasing in my head — a/k/a working. Also, sentences within the poem need to be reworded, since they don’t make particular sense; they are words put together to make a rhyme. I cannot recommend Share from the Heart for any of the children I know; the youngest can’t stay tuned in long enough for the story to play out; the older are too sophisticated for the writing. 

Bottom Line: Would I buy Share from the Heart? No.  

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