MAKE MAGIC! DO GOOD!

Let the effervescence in the pictures leaven the didacticism of the poems.

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)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5746-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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AFTER THE BELL RINGS

POEMS ABOUT AFTER-SCHOOL TIME

Smart and sassy poems and accessible illustrations combine for an engaging, humorous package.

Twenty-two light poems and accompanying illustrations explore what happens after school.

Veteran author-illustrator duo Shields and Meisel team up again (Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems, 2010, etc.) to depict the full spectrum of fun to be had after school lets out. Looking at what typically happens at the end of the school day—homework, snacking, being reunited with pets, car pools, texting friends, a little instrument practice—Shields and Meisel paint a realistic portrait of how kids feel about these activities. From the opening pair of “2:48” poems, Shields quickly establishes the collection’s light, edgy tone, showing how student and teacher alike often find the last two minutes of the day “the slowest of all.” By week’s end, Shields cleverly uses end rhyme to highlight the irony to be found in a “Friday Night” sleepover: “We call it sleeping over— / That’s not exactly true. / We bring along our sleeping bags, / But sleep? Not what we do.” Throughout the volume, Meisel’s dynamic, childlike mixed-media illustrations effectively underscore the child’s perspective these poems so often provide. But occasionally Shields also shares some important advice as a former child, enlightening young readers as to the dangers of saying, “I’m bored!” to one’s parents or trying to mask unauthorized video game usage behind a beatific smile.

Smart and sassy poems and accessible illustrations combine for an engaging, humorous package. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3805-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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