A winsome blend of whimsical subjects and beguiling verse, sure to hook young minds.



The sorrows and consolations of childhood—strict moms, dull music lessons, enchanted beings, revolting cuisines—are plumbed in this collection of poetry.

Combs, a music teacher, has a nice feel for the way small things, horrid or gratifying or both, loom large in a kid’s life. There is the sad predicament, in “A Dreadful Day,” of being sick in bed: “I’m bored and tired / but Mom will say / ‘Inside all day—in bed you’ll stay / and drink the fruit juice on your tray.” There’s the “Piano Time” search for something to liven up the practice-hour ordeal: “But since I don’t know / what ‘willpower’ means / I’ll play with the frog / I hid in my jeans.” There is the tragedy of conceitedness limned in “I’m the Richest, Smartest, Prettiest Girl,” in which said paragon wonders why no one will play with her. But such travails are balanced by imaginative delights. One can commune with creatures both ordinary, such as the friendly ungulate in “Bruce the Moose,” and extraordinary, such as the lurid flying ungulate in “The Purple Gnu” or the tiny pranksters of “Shy Shuggles,” who tease spiders by spinning green webs. And there is the giggly joy in sheer grossness, explored by the identical twins in “Ollie? or Dollie?”: “So, Ollie ate slugs / Dollie ate bugs / Followed by slime juice in each other’s mugs.” Combs’s poems feature strong meters and rhyme schemes and a rich vocabulary, and are a good fit for four- to eight-year-olds; they can either be read aloud, with parents explaining unfamiliar words, or attempted alone by novice readers with the assistance of the author’s evocative drawings. (Included are a number of music-themed poems in which characters discover the thrill of playing the timpani or conducting the orchestra, learn new terms like “euphonium” and “fortissimo,” and get introduced to Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Sousa.)

A winsome blend of whimsical subjects and beguiling verse, sure to hook young minds.

Pub Date: April 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-935631-03-3

Page Count: 154

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2010

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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

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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

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