Barbara Juster Esbensen The Night Rainbow

ISBN 13: 9780531332443

The Night Rainbow

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9780531332443: The Night Rainbow
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Features poems based on ancient legends about the northern lights from people who associated the fiery illuminations with animals, ghosts, dancers, and raging battles. By the creators of The Great Buffalo Race.

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About the Author:

Barbara Juster Esbensen was born on April 28, 1925, in Madison, Wisconsin. Throughout her life it remained the geographical center of her personal universe.

Barbara came from Jewish ancestry. Her father, Dr. Eugene Juster, was the dominant influence during her childhood years. Barbara was the eldest of his three children - all girls - and he treated Barbara like a son.

"Bobby, run out for a pass!" he would shout as he tossed a long spiral for her to catch.

On her 71st birthday, Barbara demonstrated for her grandchildren how to dropkick a football and throw a shovel pass.

Barbara's career as an author was determined when a beloved high school English teacher, Miss Eulalie Beffel, said to her, "Barbara, you are a writer."

But she was still in a box when it came to words. She had never experienced poetry that didn't rhyme. She was still in the grasp of poems like Flower in the Cranny Wall. "I hate to tell you I know that poem," Barbara once told an interviewer, "because it is so dumb."

Under Miss Beffel's tutelage, Barbara was encouraged to read poetry that didn't rhyme. Said Barbara, "When Miss Beffel gave me some poems by Amy Lowell and Emily Dickinson to read, I felt as though I were going to faint. It was so exciting to know that I was allowed to think these thoughts that were kind of bizarre and to know I didn't have to rhyme."

From then on, Barbara was off and running with words.

She was not only a gifted writer, she was a superb teacher.

"I tell kids, you can't just think. It doesn't do any good just to think. You must see it on the paper . . . . [When I wrote The Night Rainbow] what I did there was write down every single word I could possibly think of that, to me, described the Northern Lights. I filled two pages with all kinds of verbs, colors, and images like sifting and powdered -- unusual combinations.

"I tell students the poem is in the pencil. The words are all in there, and as soon as you start letting a few of them out on the paper, you're surprised; they are all holding hands, and they are all yanking each other along. In other words, they are going to come out on that page. You are going to be astounded when you stop writing and you put your pencil down. What's on the paper is astonishing.

". . . .My philosophy is [to offer students] wild enthusiasm . . . knock their blocks off. Crack their heads together and say, 'Get it, get it!'"

In 1994, Barbara became the 10th recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. This award was established in 1977 and is presented to a poet for his or her aggregate body of work. It was the first award in the United States to honor children's poetry.

The Night Rainbow was published posthumously and is Barbara's 21st book.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 2-6-An evocation of the human response to the aurora borealis. Esbensen's poetry invites readers to consider the northern lights and the myths and legends that peoples have created in their honor over the ages. Musquakie, Finnish, Ottawa, Scandinavian, Russian, Hungarian and other pourquoi tales mingle fleetingly on the pages of the book. Several concluding pages expand on the legends mentioned in the poetic text, describe the various forms of the aurora, and give some scientific information about the phenomena and its southern twin, the aurora australis. Davie's double-page spreads in pastel and gouache are notable for presenting varied displays in addition to the familiar curtain-form depictions. The book does have a few shortcomings. The afterword is a bit sketchy in describing the various cultural interpretations of the aurora. Also, although the illustrations are attractive, they depict literally the legends in question so the geese, horses, human figures, a throne, and other objects are painted into the auroral displays. However, since few of the potential readers will view an actual aurora, the idea that might likely result, that auroras are some kind of movie in the sky, is unfortunate. The amazing variety and rapid movement of an aurora is virtually impossible to depict on paper. Esbensen and Davie have made a valiant, but not totally satisfying, effort to create an appreciation for the aurora's mystery. A good choice for communities in which brief cultural information about the aurora is needed for students who are already familiar with the real thing.
Sue Sherif, Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library, AK
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780531302446: The Night Rainbow

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ISBN 10:  053130244X ISBN 13:  9780531302446
Publisher: Scholastic, 2000
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