16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

Random/Schwartz & Wade. Sept. 2019. 40p. bibliog. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524720162.
Gr 2-6–Rogers delves into the larger story behind William Carlos Williams’s famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow,” opening a window into the poet’s life and inviting children to consider what lies beyond those simple 16 words. As a physician in Rutherford, NJ, in the 1920s, Williams is depicted as treating both black and white patients. One of those patients, Mr. Thaddeus Marshall, is the owner of a red wheelbarrow, which he uses to take vegetables from his garden to sell to neighbors. Marshall and the wheelbarrow are a part of the daily landscape until the patient becomes ill. In the story, Williams ponders the significance of the wheelbarrow sitting empty as rain falls on the garden. While the main narrative imagines how Williams may have come to write the poem, an author’s note provides the factual basis and insight into Williams as a person. The author asks readers to consider what the poem means to them and provides a framework for studying any piece of poetry. Full-bleed digital illustrations are interspersed with smaller spot images. Decorative elements in the houses, buildings, wallpaper, and design elements such as family photos present a visual sense of the time period.
VERDICT A unique picture book that shows how poetry can capture a feeling or an image with a few well-chosen words. Pair with Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog to make a thought-provoking poetry connection.

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