The Thurber Prize winner’s first collection of poetry for children has a familiar feel, except for that blue hyena.
In poems generally inspired by real-life experiences, Trillin turns his gaze upon the ebb and flow of childhood. The kids here are sure to strike a familiar chord with anyone who knows a stuffed-animal hoarder or has a sister incapable of keeping to her side of the back seat. For readers accustomed to Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and the like, Trillin breaks little new ground with this collection, presenting such usual suspects as kids who want a dog (“To Get a Pet”), unwanted younger siblings (“Baby Brother Billy”), and bossy older siblings (“Who Plays What”). There are some notable exceptions, however, as in “Who’s the Awfulest Kid in Your Class?” in which a nephew with an inquisitive uncle feels compelled to invent a bully. Trillin’s wordplay can be enjoyable (“She’s over the line, / She’s over the line. / She occupies space / That’s rightfully mine”) but more often than not merely feels diligent. Chast’s beleaguered, oft-frenzied, only occasionally multiracial denizens do much to elevate Trillin’s familiar subjects. Her blue hyena is an exercise in child-friendly psychosis, while her pictorial demonstration of shoe-tying mishaps is laugh-out-loud funny.
More of the same—but a nice more. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)