AFRICAN ACROSTICS

A WORD IN EDGEWAYS

Acrostic poems inventively highlight the animals of Africa. While some of the acrostics simply spell the name of the animals, others expand the topic of the poem—the rhino’s poem spells out “beauty in the beast,” while the giraffe’s declares them “cloud friends.” Harley keeps things interesting by varying the seriousness of the poems and the rhythm and rhyme schemes. Backmatter includes more about acrostics as a poetic form and short paragraphs of information about each of the featured animals. Noyes’s photographs perfectly encapsulate the poems, the two creating a harmonious whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The kudu, his poem asking how one greets this animal, is shown in close-up, his head tilted as if waiting for an introduction. The fatherly advice of the ostrich is delivered with a straight face, long-lashed eyes looking readers right in the eye. This belongs in every collection—for the poetry, for the photographs, for the information. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3621-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

DIARY OF A SPIDER

The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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