EMPTY BEACHES by Brett Fleishman


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From Fleishman (If the Earth Is Round, 2017, etc.), a stimulating volume of poetry for children interested in wordplay.

At the start of this book of 25 poems, Fleishman informs readers that he loves puns and idioms, and he isn’t kidding. In “Rodeo Rick,” a lapsed cowboy gets “back in the saddle again.” In “Lottery Ticket,” a man’s ticket and hopes simultaneously go “down the drain.” In a tug of war between steaks and fish on a grill, “Captain Steak tells his team, ‘Yes, we did it! We won! / I am proud of you steaks. This was very well done!’ ” In “Potato Chip War,” a 12-year-old bemoans the fact that he has to clean up a mess his 6-year-old brother made: “He looks annoyed / With that chip on his shoulder.” Thankfully, not every poem ends with a pun or an idiom. Fleishman’s anecdotes often focus on professional people involved in conundrums, such as “Check, Pretty Please?” where an exhausted waiter discreetly encourages two kings to finish up their meal: “After thinking of ways he can drop subtle hints / He brings out a small tray filled with end-of-meal mints / The two kings thank the waiter, continue to chat / They did not get his hint…oh well, so much for that!” Some poems, like “Dictionary,” evoke Shel Silverstein with their stubbornly determined characters hungry for knowledge: “This dictionary’s fun to read. I will not take a break. / I should be done by 10 PM if I can stay awake.” Fleishman defines homonyms, puns, and idioms in the appendix. He primarily alternates between rhyming couplets and quatrains, providing a steady and consistent rhythm throughout. At times, his noun and verb choices become redundant: “As they sit at a bar by the edge of a pool / Two enormous weightlifters each sit on a stool (emphasis added).” Illustrations by White—which vary in style from clip-art–esque to cartoonish to shades of Beavis and Butt-Head—may keep kids engaged if they get wordplay overload.

Clever, fun poems that teach young readers about puns and idioms.

Page count: 55pp
Publisher: Mindstir Media
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2017


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