Mirror mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse - Marilyn Singer

A reverso. Read it normally or read it in reverse: one poem, two poetic experiences. Mirror mirror contains 13 reverso poems that rise out of different fairy tales (as well as a few more that don't).  


To give you a picture of the type of poem, here are the first two lines of the poem "Disappointment", a poem featuring an unhappy princess bemoaning the fact she has kissed a frog without the fairy tale reward of a prince.


The princess

who kissed 

that frog.

He stayed green.


The rules Marilyn Singer set for herself for this grouping of poem mean the words must be unchanged--but the punctuation and capitalization can change.  So those first two phrases merge to become the last phrase of the poem:


He stayed green,

that frog

who kissed 

the princess.


Reading the poems, I suspect I can tell which was written as the "main" poem, for usually one of the two versions flows slightly more smoothly or slightly more logically.  Who knows if I'm right, but it's fun to speculate! The poems I liked the most were the poems presenting alternate viewpoints.  In "The Sleeping Beauty and the Wide-Awake Prince", one of my favorites, when read in one direction it's Sleeping Beauty complaining about her life and envying the prince. "It's no fun being in a fairy tale," she declares. The other direction presents the prince complaining about his life! While some of the stories pretty much just present the plots, there's a good amount of complaining in these poems, which presents a fun, human side of time-loved characters like Snow White, the Ugly Ducking, and Rapunzel that isn't commonly depicted. 


As for illustrations, the cover illustration gives a good indication of the artwork inside. The same colors are carried throughout the book: a pale warm yellow, a lime green, a vivid blue, red... and all the images are split in half with connecting lines.  The images have a grainy, streaked texture to them, resembling paints on heavily grained wood or canvas with vertical strokes of gesso in the background.  In the illustration for "Cinderella's Double Life", the left side of the illustration is warm orange with a touch of blue out the window / in her dress.  The right side of the illustration is blue with a touch of warm orange-yellow in her dress and the moon.  The step-sisters lean on a railing--the line from the railing switches to be the line between the floor and the wall.  The curves of the moon meet the marks of a wall-clock.  In all of the illustrations there is this element--lines from one side that meet lines from the other side, changing objects but still the same smooth line.  Each poem has a full image opposite it.  About a third of these images are split in quarters--one example of this is the duckling-swan.  The top right corner is the grey fuzzy duckling.  The bottom right corner is a reflected swan.  The top left corner the swan body--the bottom right corner is a reflected fuzzy duckling. 


The poems are laid out the same on each page: the page split in half, one side white and the other side a soft, creamy pale yellow. Each side has the poem, just with the text moving in the opposite direction. Under each poem is an iconic image representing that particular story. For example, in the poem about Little Red Riding Hood, there are raspberries, like she might have picked in the woods on her way to her grandmothers. For the ugly duckling it is a feather.  


If you read it and love it, look for the book Follow Follow, also by Marilyn Singer, with more fairy-tale related reverso poems in it.