THANKSGIVING POEMS selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (Holiday House: $12.95; 32 pp.; age 8 and up). Maybe if Mrs. Fillmore back in fifth grade hadn't made us analyze poetry to death, more of my peers would have stayed friendly with the beauty and balance to be found in verse. To simply enjoy words for whatever feelings they evoke is a delicious experience.
Early readers who've yet to be grilled by a Mrs. Fillmore should enjoy this attractive anthology where 10 writers, among them David McCord, Kaye Starbird and Emanuel di Pasquale, were especially commissioned to describe our first national holiday. Traditional, religious and humorous poems accompany sober thoughts from native Americans, which include an excerpt from the Navaho "Songs in the Garden of the Houser God" and an adaptation of "Songs of the Osage Woman," words to honor stages of growth and harvest.
All are complemented with autumnal art by the talented Stephen Gammell. He has matched moods with each poem, creating balance so smooth and heartfelt that the poems are almost secondary. A hilarious pairing with "Family Reunion" by Times Book Prize winner X. J. Kennedy will seem familiar to anyone who's holidayed with uncles and cousins; and when Jake O'Leary tries to please Auntie by eating her pumpkin pie, children will laugh, if not sympathize.