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. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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An unusually mixed bag.



The title of Viorst’s latest collection of poetry for children provides an open invitation for readers not only to ponder feelings in general, but to examine their reactions to the assembled poems as well.

Complemented by White’s free-flowing mixed-media illustrations, the light lyric pieces cover topics ranging from “School Stuff” to descriptions of the seasons, with the most memorable poems centering on personal and familial relations. The reasons “Why Cats Are Better Than My Older Sister” include (but are not limited to) the following: “They never tell you what to do. / They never ever yell at you. / They don’t think that they’re always right. / They’re prettier to look at, too.” In “New Brother,” trenchant free-verse anti–new-sibling sentiment is hilariously underscored by White’s rendering of a smiling, swaddled babe strapped to a rocket heading “To Mars.” But some stumbles make for an uneven reading experience. There are occasional grammatical lapses, as found in “Could Somebody Please Explain This to Me, Please?,” which hinges on subject-verb disagreement, and questionable messages, as offered in “Help Me!”: “Help me please with all my / Ninety-seven other chores. / Then help me make excuses / When you ask for help with yours.” Though likely made in the service of humor or adopting a child’s persona, such poetic choices might give adult readers less to be “glad” than “mad about.”

An unusually mixed bag. (Poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2355-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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The poetry and prose form more of an uneasy détente than an integrated whole, but the comical pictures and the wordplay in...



“Trilobites the Dust,” and so do the rest of a cast of extinct creatures in this sequel (prequel?) to Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs (2012).

In chronological order from the Paleozoic to the Cenozoic eras, dinosaurs, prehistoric reptiles, and early mammals offer memento mori in pithy verse. “Iguanodon, Alas Long Gone,” for example runs: “Iguano dawned, / Iguano dined, / Iguano done, / Iguano gone.” With similar brevity, “Plesiosaur Sticks His Neck Out” of Loch Ness and has it chopped through by a Pict (a footnote admits the anachronism), and unknown agents leave “Pterrible Pterosaur Pterminated.” In later times, a saber-toothed cat (“Tiger, tiger, hunting bright / near the tar pits, late at night”), a dire wolf, and a woolly mammoth are all depicted trapped in the gooey muck. Each poem comes with an explanatory note, and a prose afterword titled “A Little About Layers” discusses how the fossil record works. Timmins reflects this secondary informational agenda in his illustrations without taking it too seriously—providing a spade-bearded, popeyed paleontologist who resembles a spud in shape and color to usher readers through galleries of fossil remnants or fleshed-out specimens meeting their ends with shocked expressions.

The poetry and prose form more of an uneasy détente than an integrated whole, but the comical pictures and the wordplay in these dino demises provide sufficient lift. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58089-706-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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