Indie best-seller Clayton (An Awesome Book!, 2012) offers this light collection of didactic verse for young readers as his traditional-publishing debut.
Accompanying these short lyric poems are Clayton’s own free-wheeling illustrations done with “two parts positive vibes and three parts watercolor sprinkles,” making for two-page spreads that give these potent messages added levity and much-needed breathing room. Many of these works make no bones about driving home clear imperatives like those found in the volume’s title piece: “Make magic / do good. / Be who you are. / Be what you should.” But Clayton’s more compelling poems are those that are downright silly—“Did you hear about the race? / Hooray! I came in second place. / And second place will do just fine / in a race to hug a porcupine”—or whose lessons are slightly muted, as in “Butterfly”: “If you find a caterpillar / and you keep it in a jar, / just think of how your life would be / if you weren’t where you are, / if someone put you in a bowl / or in a tiny box / or in an old aquarium / filled with shiny rocks.” While Clayton succinctly delivers a number of behavioral tips looking to foster kindness, generosity, courage and spontaneity in the next generation, his poetic touch is sometimes heavy-handed.
Let the effervescence in the pictures leaven the didacticism of the poems. (Poetry. 6-10)