Books by Deborah Desser-Herchan

MUMBO JUMBO by Deborah Desser-Herchan
Released: March 21, 2014

Desser-Herchan, in her debut with illustrations by Salisbury, offers an eclectic mix of poems about childhood.
Desser-Herchan organizes her diverse collection of poems into three chapters: "A Little Levity," which features whimsical poems on a variety of topics including ketchup preferences, the contents of a child's pocket and a little girl's imaginative language of sounds called "Mumbo Jumbo." In the brief second chapter, "A Hint of Haiku," Desser-Herchan provides exactly what the title describes: e.g., "Bashful sun appears / Rain-filled puddles, blue sky clear / Bugs afloat on leaves." Yet the book's strength lies in the sentimentality of the third chapter, "Grains of Growth," which features poems having a warm maternal viewpoint. (Desser-Herchan dedicates her varied compilation to her son, crediting him as the inspiration for much of her work.) For instance, in "Rainbow Rider," a poem in the third chapter, a young boy coloring a fox asks his mother whether a fox must always be brown; the narrator, ruminating over how her answer will impact the child's future creative expression, turns the question back to the child—"What would make you glad?"—giving him free artistic license. Desser-Herchan employs a similarly caring tone in "Believe": "As sure as skies are shades of blue / As sure as horses neigh not moo / As sure as doves billow and coo / I believe in you." Using a mixture of watercolor and ink, Salisbury's images vary in how they relate to the poems. Illustrations in "Mumbo Jumbo" and "Brothers to the End," for instance, both clearly depict the topic and storyline, whereas in another poem, "Stranger in my House," it's difficult to discern what's going on between the subjects. Nevertheless, the treatment of other characters, like the mother and son together in "The One and Only," is more clear and endearing. Bright colors and a simple san serif font complement the poems' overall playfulness. A brief final section, "The Gifting Page," adds a nice touch, allowing young readers to ceremoniously pass the book on to a younger child.

The quality of poems and illustrations varies throughout, but overall, the warm, maternal wisdom offers several valuable lessons. Read full book review >