ODE TO AN ONION

PABLO NERUDA & HIS MUSE

Read for a sweet story about the creative process (but not for information about Neruda).

The author imagines the day when the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was inspired to write an ode to an onion.

As the book starts, a man is writing at his desk. His name is Pablo, and he is writing a long and sad poem, which makes him feel gloomy. This gloom will permeate much of his outlook that day. Soon he’s off to lunch with his friend Matilde. To dispel the glum mood, Matilde invites Pablo into the garden to collect what they need for lunch. For every happy and upbeat expression Matilde utters about the flowers and vegetables in the garden, Pablo responds with a sad comment. Back in the kitchen, when Pablo cuts into an onion, “all he saw through his tears was a lowly vegetable. But then he noticed how the sunlight shone through the onion’s layers.” He thanks Matilde for reminding him there is also happiness in the world. And thus, Pablo is inspired to write an ode to an onion. Sala’s exuberant illustrations are playful and colorful, depicting both Pablo and Matilde with pale skin. The backmatter includes a very brief account of the famous Nobel Prize winner’s life along with the poem with its English translation. Unfortunately, for most children in the United States not familiar with Neruda, his importance in 20th-century Spanish literature will not be apparent. Read along with Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkis (2011).

Read for a sweet story about the creative process (but not for information about Neruda). (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944903-34-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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EMILE AND THE FIELD

A charming exploration of children’s special relationship with nature.

The story of a young Black boy who “fell in love with a field.”

The book opens with a peaceful scene of Emile sitting in a field overrun with wildflowers of various colors. This is his favorite haunt, where he and his little black dog spend countless hours undisturbed, daydreaming and communing with blossoms and insects. Emile—who often whispers lovingly to the field and regards it as a sentient companion—reflects on all the things the field will never get to experience. Although the field knows the four seasons and “how many stars / there were / and just how far,” it will never get to see the sea and skyscrapers. When winter comes and snow covers the field, Emile worries, wondering where the field goes when it disappears. And when some noisy children invade the field to sled and build snowpals, Emile hates that he has to share his beloved sanctuary, until his dad teaches him that love is not about possession but appreciation. Although some readers may pause at the unconventional punctuation, Young’s gentle, sparely worded narrative endearingly captures the animistic, magical thinking of children and the joy of tranquil childhood hours spent in nature. The impressionistic, atmospheric artwork—rendered in watercolor and ink—underscores the dreamy, spontaneous nature of Emile’s outdoor adventures and features open compositions that create a sense of expansiveness. All characters present Black except one White background character.

A charming exploration of children’s special relationship with nature. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984850-42-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Make Me a World

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

HOW TO WRITE A POEM

Marvelously crafted to inspire blooming writers.

This companion to Alexander and Sweet’s How To Read a Book (2019) offers children a path from swirling inspiration to poetry.

Alexander and Nikaido’s own poem, blossoming with metaphor, its similes multiplying like mushrooms, locates its advice in nature. “Begin / with a question, / like an acorn / waiting for spring.” Their free verse, at once economical and luminous, beautifully charts the process from thought to expression, inviting children to imagine boundlessly. Accentuating the work of poem-making, the authors offer advice on handling those teeming words: “Invite them / into your paper boat / and row row row / across the wild white expanse.” Sweet’s gouache-and-watercolor illustrations depict diverse, dynamically active people within a colorful universe of collaged cut shapes, word-strewn vintage papers, pebbles, and hand-lettered text. Endlessly inventive, she affixes a drawing to loose-leaf paper, making its straight lines leap up and over three rowboats. Opposite, a group of kids collect letter shapes in a vessel folded from an old book page. Echoing the sentiment of an introductory quote from poet Nikki Giovanni (“We are all either wheels or connectors. Whichever we are, we must find truth and balance, which is a bicycle”), the double spreads are peppered with circles, curves, and loops. Alexander and Nikaido end with a final, heartfelt call to poets-in-training: “Now, show us what you’ve found.” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Marvelously crafted to inspire blooming writers. (notes from Alexander and Sweet) (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9780063060906

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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