A work of unbridled joy sweetly rendered with a lot of heart.



A collection of 22 poems for kids, accompanied by homespun illustrations.

From the first poem “Invasion,” an ode to dust bunnies, Combs makes it refreshingly clear that rhythm and language trump solemn moralizing in this children’s book.  This is a lesson in itself since Combs’ playfulness as a poet makes the English language fun rather than something for children to fear. Every poem, from “The Barnyard Ballet,” in which “Pigs wore pink tutus / And cows donned blue gowns, / Leaping from barns, / Pirouetting though towns,” to “A Rare Pair” (“There was an umbrella / Who was an odd fella; / It just didn’t work like the rest”) have an easy cadence and engaging musicality accessible to readers both young and old. The simple graphite and pen-and-colored-pencil pictures present a whimsical context for the delightful words. In fact, if there’s one thing the book needs, it’s more illustrations. “Peter The Eater,” about a boy who ate “Crunchy red ants, / mud cakes and flies, / His mother’s house plants / and bumblebee pies,” is a standout, but with five pages of words followed by only one drawing of Peter, it feels a bit sparse. (But that’s a minor quibble in the face of the multitude of illustrations accompanying “Bonaparte Gulls / and Sandwich Terns, / Boat-tailed Grackles / and Fiddle-head Ferns” in “Real Silly Names.”) Indeed, the Dr. Seuss-like wonder and enchantment that shines throughout makes the reader only want more of this author’s original vision. In this sense, the collection feels like a sketch for a more substantive work. For example, at a mere seven pages “My Closet Monster,” about a bogeyman “With bumpy skin, / the color of grapes” cries out to be expanded into a fully developed short story. There’s even “The Queen of Dirt” Emma McBean, who lives in squalor until one day she and her stench mysteriously disappear. The tale behind this character would seem nearly novelistic, conjuring up images just begging to be born on the page.

A work of unbridled joy sweetly rendered with a lot of heart.

Pub Date: March 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-935631-00-2

Page Count: 126

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A festive invitation to creative liberation.


A pleasingly tactile exploration of the possibilities inherent in mistakes.

"A torn piece of paper... / is just the beginning!" Spills, folded paper, drips of paint, smudges and smears—they "all can make magic appear." An increasingly complex series of scenarios celebrates random accidents, encouraging artistic experimentation rather than discouragement. The folded-over paper can be a penguin's head; a torn piece of newsprint can turn into a smiling dog with a little application of paint; a hot-chocolate stain can become a bog for a frog. Thanks to a telescoping pop-up, a hole is filled with nearly limitless possibilities. The interactive elements work beautifully with the photo-collaged "mistakes," never overwhelming the intent with showiness. Saltzberg's trademark cartoon animals provide a sweetly childlike counterpoint to the artful scribbles and smears of gloppy paint.

A festive invitation to creative liberation. (Pop-up. 4-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7611-5728-1

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



From the artist who created last year's shoutingly vivid Growing Vegetable Soup, a companion volume about raising a flower garden. "Mom and I" plant bulbs (even rhizomes), choose seeds, buy seedlings, and altogether grow about 20 species. Unlike the vegetables, whose juxtaposed colors were almost painfully bright, the flowers make a splendidly gaudy array, first taken together and then interestingly grouped by color—the pages vary in size here so that colored strips down the right-hand side combine to make a broad rainbow. Bold, stylish, and indubitably inspired by real flowers, there is still (as with its predecessor) a link missing between these illustrations with their large, solid areas of color and the real experience of a garden. The stylized forms are almost more abstractions than representations (and why is the daisy yellow?). There is also little sense of the relative times for growing and blooming—everything seems to come almost at once. Perhaps the trouble is that Ehlert has captured all the color of the garden, but not its subtle gradations or the light, the space, the air, and the continual movement and change.

Pub Date: March 21, 1988

ISBN: 0152063048

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet