Jon Muth’s Hi, Koo! is the perfect, lighthearted treat of children’s literature for this Free Friday. Before the adventure begins, the author’s note offers an explanation on the traditional haiku. Muth’s artistic take on the haiku strays from the customary five-seven-five syllable pattern. He uses “sensory images” to convey an “instant captured in words.” The story’s compilation of haikus follows Koo, a panda bear, through the four seasons. Koo’s seasonal adventures are perfectly relatable for young readers: sweeping leaves, dancing in the rain, indulging in soup and warm cookies,throwing snowballs, welcoming the warmth of spring, exploring the woods, catching fireflies, and flying kites.
This picture book is incredible. The haiku structure offers a unique writing style unlike most books written for this audience (toddler to early elementary-age children). When I think of poetry written for children, I think of short writing with incomplete content. However Muth commendably uses a form of poetry to tell a story. The story of Koo transcending the seasons is endearing. Even thought the image of a panda participating in human activities may seem childish, the characterization of Koo is far from it. Koo is an adorable companion easily accessed through young children’s imaginations, and his activities are accurately childlike. This poetic format also offers an appealing rhythm making Hi, Koo! an excellent read-aloud. Its text is succinct which makes it appropriate to read to young children with short attention spans or to assign to early readers seeking short texts which they can successfully complete. The illustrations accurately complement the content of the text oftentimes compensating for subtle limitations caused by the poetic structure. Their gentle yet colorful hues are inviting and reflective of the artistic tone that Muth sets with the text.
Suggested by: Amanda Bunten