This latest addition to the Neighbors poetry series offers engaging poetry for young children.
Held and Kim (The Yard Critters Too, 2013, etc.) continue their partnership with a new set of 13 poems that combine wordplay and factual information about animals from aquatic biomes. The marine critters include a dolphin, a seal, a manatee, bivalves, a polar bear, a sea otter, a sea horse, a shark, and a whale; the freshwater animals include a beaver, a snapping turtle, a tiger salamander, and a minnow. As in the authors’ earlier volumes, each spread features at least one easy-to-interpret digital collage or illustrated image. The addition of higher-level cultural references—Uniqlo and Prius, for example—and a poem that doesn’t provide contextual clues to the meanings of challenging words (“Tiger Salamander”) suggest that the book may not be appropriate for very young readers. The authors continue to use a wide variety of ear-pleasing rhymes—including homophones (see/sea), weak rhymes (Uniqlo/also), alliteration (so placid/so pleasant), assonance (brine/time), and broken rhymes (jaws/awesome). However, some moments may stop some readers in their tracks. There are some personifications that don’t quite click (Heron and Tern are called “stern,” with no apparent rationale other than forcing the rhyme); and a passage about blue whales inexplicably switches to humpbacks. “Bivalves” begins with an obscure double entendre—“So common they’re part of our tongue / which is happy to order and taste them”—which requires readers to understand the word “tongue” to mean a language as well as an organ in the mouth used to speak. The illustrations, however, continue to delight with their combination of different art styles, and their surprising patterns, which invite second looks.
Well-illustrated poetry which may be too challenging for some younger readers.