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A LITTLE CALLED PAULINE

An intimidating poem lovingly interpreted.

A story illustrated around a selection from Stein’s 1914 poetry collection, Tender Buttons.

How, exactly, does one visually interpret Stein?? “I hope she has her cow” lends itself to a clear-enough image. And lines like “Nearer in fairy sea, nearer and farther” are obviously evocative. But what of “If it is absurd then it is leadish” or “little leading mention nothing?” Illustrator Stone takes words by the famed experimental poet and lets her imagination lead her to a story about “a little girl named Pauline who lives with her mom in a house on stilts by the sea.” This interpretation is as good as any other, and Stone’s loose-limbed, crudely emotional, brightly washed illustrations do a lot to create a mystifying yet comforting world where a young white girl named Pauline, her mother, and their multiracial group of friends prepare for a party that ends with Pauline paddling out to sea. Stein isn’t for everyone, of course, so there’s no use asking that this interpretation be widely accessible or appealing, but it works, somehow, nonetheless. Less successful and more patronizing is the afterword, in which Stone explains that Stein “liked to use sentences in new ways that looked different than other people’s. Why not try saying something silly while saying something serious? she must have thought.” Must she have?

An intimidating poem lovingly interpreted. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9996584-9-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penny Candy

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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ZILOT & OTHER IMPORTANT RHYMES

A lackluster collection of verse enlivened by a few bright spots.

Poems on various topics by the actor/screenwriter and his kids.

In collaboration with his now-grown children—particularly daughter Erin, who adds gently humorous vignettes and spot art to each entry—Bob Odenkirk, best known for his roles in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, dishes up a poetic hodgepodge that is notably loose jointed in the meter and rhyme departments. The story also too often veers from child-friendly subjects (bedtime-delaying tactics, sympathy for a dog with the zoomies) to writerly whines (“The be-all and end-all of perfection in scribbling, / no matter and no mind to any critical quibbling”). Some of the less-than-compelling lines describe how a “plane ride is an irony / with a strange and wondrous duplicity.” A few gems are buried in the bunch, however, like the comforting words offered to a bedroom monster and a frightened invisible friend, not to mention an invitation from little Willy Whimble, who lives in a tuna can but has a heart as “big as can be. / Come inside, / stay for dinner. / I’ll roast us a pea!” They’re hard to find, though. Notwithstanding nods to Calef Brown, Shel Silverstein, and other gifted wordsmiths in the acknowledgments, the wordplay in general is as artificial as much of the writing: “I scratched, then I scrutched / and skrappled away, / scritching my itch with great / pan-a-ché…” Human figures are light-skinned throughout.

A lackluster collection of verse enlivened by a few bright spots. (Poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780316438506

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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WHAT YOU NEED TO BE WARM

No substitute for blankets or shelter, but perhaps a way of securing some warmth for those in need.

Gaiman’s free-verse meditation on coming in from, or at least temporarily fending off, the cold is accompanied by artwork from 13 illustrators.

An ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the author put out a social media appeal in 2019 asking people about their memories of warmth; the result is this picture book, whose proceeds will go to the UNHCR. For many refugees and other displaced persons, Gaiman writes, “food and friends, / home, a bed, even a blanket, / become just memories.” Here he gathers images that signify warmth, from waking in a bed “burrowed beneath blankets / and comforters” to simply holding a baked potato or being offered a scarf. Using palettes limited to black and the warm orange in which most of the text is printed, an international slate of illustrators give these images visual form, and 12 of the 13 add comments about their intentions or responses. The war in Ukraine is on the minds of Pam Smy and Bagram Ibatoulline, while Majid Adin recalls his time as a refugee in France’s “Calais jungle” camp. “You have the right to be here,” the poet concludes, which may give some comfort to those facing the cold winds of public opinion in too many of the places where refugees fetch up. The characters depicted are diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

No substitute for blankets or shelter, but perhaps a way of securing some warmth for those in need. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063358089

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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