Kids will want to wade deeply into this marvelous, winning mix-up.



Readers may never look at concrete, or shaped, poetry in the same way again.

Of course the words on the pages convey the outline of objects and ideas in Raczka’s stunningly inventive new collection of “word paintings,” but so do letter arrangements and shapes in the poem’s titles. See, for example, “DIPPER,” set against a black two-page spread, with the second P in the title soaring aloft, cup-shaped, at the top of the page, while the shape of the poem itself resembles Ursa Major. The letters in the title “eracer” appear with a partially obliterated c, while the poem includes a pencil-shaped line whose eraser-tip “end” is about to wipe out a “misstake”! And so goes each delightful, child-friendly poem and creative title. Readers will enjoy turning the volume upside down and every which way to catch every word and nuance and won’t miss illustrations a bit. As Raczka points out, “In the poems…I’ve created pictures with words.” Youngsters will be inspired to put their own writing implements to paper voluntarily. Indeed, the author’s final effort is entitled “poeTRY.” Teachers might wish to challenge students to devise cleverly lettered titles, then exchange papers with partners who will follow through with themed poems.

Kids will want to wade deeply into this marvelous, winning mix-up. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62672-236-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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An edge-of-your-seat read.


A girl’s birthdays mark parallel tragedies for her broken family unit.

Last year’s celebration at a restaurant ended in an unexplained public shooting, and Nora’s mother died. She and her father are still wrestling with their trauma, Nora with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD. For this year’s outing, Nora and her father head into the deserts of the Southwest on a rock-climbing expedition. They descend into a 40-foot deep slot canyon, then hike along inside until a flash flood barrels through the canyon, washing away all their supplies…and Nora’s father. She’s left to survive this symbolic and living nightmare on her own. Thankfully, she can make continuous use of her parents’ thorough training in desert knowledge. Brief sections of prose bracket the meat of the story, which is in verse, a choice highly effective in setting tone and emotional resonance for the heightened situation. Bowling’s poems run a gamut of forms, transforming the literal shape of the text just as the canyon walls surrounding Nora shape her trek. The voice of Nora’s therapist breaks through occasionally, providing a counterpoint perspective. Nora is White while two characters seen in memories have brown skin. The narrative also names local Native peoples. Elements of the survival story and psychological thriller combine with strong symbolism to weave a winding, focused, stunning narrative ultimately about the search for healing.

An edge-of-your-seat read. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49469-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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An emotional and powerful story with soaring poetry.


A fourth grader navigates the complicated world of immigration.

Betita Quintero loves the stories her father tells about the Aztlán (the titular land of cranes), how their people emigrated south but were fabled to return. Betita also loves to write. She considers words like “intonation,” “alchemy,” and “freedom” to be almost magic, using those and other words to create picture poems to paint her feelings, just like her fourth grade teacher, Ms. Martinez, taught her. But there are also words that are scary, like “cartel,” a word that holds the reason why her family had to emigrate from México to the United States. Even though Betita and her parents live in California, a “sanctuary state,” the seemingly constant raids and deportations are getting to be more frequent under the current (unnamed) administration. Thinking her family is safe because they have a “petition…to fly free,” Betita is devastated when her dad is taken away by ICE. Without their father, the lives of the Quinteros, already full of fear and uncertainty, are further derailed when they make the small mistake of missing a highway exit. Salazar’s verse novel presents contemporary issues such as “zero tolerance” policies, internalized racism, and mass deportations through Betita’s innocent and hopeful eyes, making the complex topics easy to understand through passionate, lyrical verses.

An emotional and powerful story with soaring poetry. (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-34380-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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