Clever but of limited use.




In loose, mostly free-verse poems, readers learn a lot about a variety of hoofed animals.

The lesser mouse-deer, for example, is “Only 12 inches tall, / 18 inches long, / and 4.5 pounds in weight.” And the Arabian oryx “was the first (nearly) extinct animal / to be returned to the wild.” Each entry is accompanied by an illustration of the animal in question, in renderings that vary from cartoony depictions to splashy watercolors, often with a hint of the surreal. While each poem contains at least a nugget of interesting information, and many use humor (scatological or otherwise), several may find a less appreciative audience in the United States than they did in the Netherlands. The poem about the wild Bactrian camel, for example, references a harem and uses the slur “lame”; the hippopotamus entry relies in part on fatphobia for effect; and the Japanese serow’s poem opens by just throwing out a variety of Japanese words including Toyota and Sudoku. As it’s a translation, it’s hard to say exactly where these choices originate. The collection does neatly balance humor with scientific information, but poetry lovers may be daunted by the scantily leaded small type, and children who want to learn about animals are more likely to seek books with more robust nonfiction elements (though they may appreciate the factual backmatter).

Clever but of limited use. (further reading) (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5548-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity


When the war comes to Syria, many flee, but Alaa stays in his beloved city, Aleppo, where he continues to work as an ambulance driver and helps the wounded to safety.

Day after day, he misses his family and friends who have left, wondering where they are and how they are doing. His neighborhood empties—except for cats! However, these cats are affected by the conflict too; they’re left behind with shelters destroyed and food and water stringently limited. Alaa, who has a big heart, starts taking care of them using the little money he has. The love between man and cats multiplies, and many people from around the world step up to help. Soon, the cats of Aleppo get a pleasant shelter set in a courtyard. However, Alaa does not stop there and goes on to help other animals and more people, spreading joy, love, and hope. Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations. It is also enriched with notes from Alaa himself (the real one) as well as the authors and illustrator. The often-dramatic images offer a glimpse of the city prior to the conflict and a window on the real people who experience war and try to survive and help others around them.

A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity . (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1378-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.


Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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