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MEAL OF THE STARS by Dana Jensen


Poems Up and Down

by Dana Jensen & illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Pub Date: March 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-39007-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Jensen’s debut yields 15 skinny poems, 10 of which are meant to be read from bottom to top.

The untitled poems’ subjects range from the lofty—stars and rockets—to the mundane—a winter jacket’s zipper, a ladybug’s hike up a dandelion stem. Each line consists of just one word. Neither punctuation nor capitalization appears, rendering natural breaks tricky to discern. A waterfall poem reads “roaring / crashing / sparkling / and / white / oh / what / a / thunder / heaving / its / mighty / heart / the / waterfall / splashes / out / its / lovely / blue / music / on / the / slippery / rocks / below.” Poems soar, as in one about a kite, but they can also fall a bit flat, without rising from reportage to evocative engagement. Tusa’s quirky watercolor-and-ink illustrations invite browsing; black-and-white vignettes alternate with full-color pages. Rather than visually extending the poems, the pictures seem catapulted beyond them: A simple verse narrating an elevator ride appears against a double-page spread showing the narrator in a penthouse with a rooftop pool, a deck with a swing and a bike, an open-air bedroom and fruit trees. The choice to depict successive children throughout rather than to visually capture a consistent narrator seems a missed opportunity in a title that could have profited from more cohesion.

Ambitious but flawed.

(Picture book/poetry. 4-7)