Safe, mostly conservative choices in an expansive gathering, with dazzling visuals.



Some 200-plus short poems about U.S. places, people, and events are superimposed on big, bright landscape and other photographs.

Notwithstanding Lewis’ grandiose claim that these “chiseled words and fabulous photos” present “the underside, backside, inside, and other side of America,” the general tone is blandly celebratory, with only occasional, mild dissension. Robert Frost’s paternalistic “The Gift Outright” (“The land was ours before we were the land’s”) is paired, for instance with Carole Boston Weatherford’s protest litany “Power to the People” (“You Are On Stolen Land”); and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” appears, rather obviously, side by side with Langston Hughes’ “I, too, sing America.” The poetry largely steers clear of abstractions, violent imagery, or even, aside from a strongly rhythmic final chant by Leigh Lewis, declamatory slam or hip-hop language. Topics range from natural wonders to local festivals, regional food, salutes to celebrities including John Wayne and Willie Nelson, elegies for Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, sports, religious observances, and statements of ethnic or national identity. Nods to the diversity of American voices include frequent entries by immigrant and minority writers as well as poems in Spanish, Arabic, and Korean with accompanying translations into English by, usually, the poets themselves. The photos, gorgeous as they are, largely serve a decorative function as only a handful bear identifying captions.

Safe, mostly conservative choices in an expansive gathering, with dazzling visuals. (bibliography, indexes) (Poetry. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3185-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Nye at her engaging, insightful best.



Nye explores what we throw away, literally (she’s a litter picker-upper) and metaphorically.

In 80-plus poems, Nye writes conversationally, injecting humor, outrage, and reminiscence. Unambiguously championing the environment, she marvels at how casually humans toss trash. “What about these energy bottles pitched by someone / who didn’t have energy to find a bin? / Fun Finger Food wrappers dropped by someone / not so fun?” An archaeologist of urban detritus, she ponders her discoveries, championing children throughout. “Blocks around elementary schools / are surprisingly free of litter. / Good custodians?” Nye locates the profound in the mundane: “A single silver star / on a curb by Bonham Elementary / Good work! / Glimmering / like a treasure / stronger at this moment than all 50 / drooping on the flagpole.” She mourns the current othering of the homeless and refugees: “A few hundred miles from here / thousands of traumatized kids / huddle in cages / … / Who can believe this? / Land of the Free!” She keenly knits place into poems: her city, San Antonio; the Ferguson, Missouri, of her childhood; Maui; Hong Kong. She castigates Trump, who “talks uglier than the bully in grade school,” and Prince Charles, who dithers ineffectually about plastic waste. She generously praises poets and writers: W.S. Merwin, who drafted poems on junk mail; David Ignatow, for a poetic image that Nye has found compelling since high school; Kevin Henkes, for his book Egg.

Nye at her engaging, insightful best. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-290769-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Lighthearted and entertaining, Raczka’s irreverent quatrains show middle graders no figure is too lofty for some poetic play.



Presidential portraits in light verse.

Raczka adopts the four-line, limericklike clerihew to skewer each of the U.S. presidents. Assisted by brilliantly expressive pen-and-ink caricatures from award-winning cartoonist Burr, Raczka makes the most of historical trivia, lampooning a wide variety of presidential idiosyncrasies. Sometimes he pokes fun at daily habits: “Fitness nut John Quincy Adams / lived by the words, ‘Up and at ’em.’ / Every morning, right at dawn, / he swam the Potomac with no clothes on.” Other times he highlights significant events: “Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt / was shot near the heart, which he hardly felt. / The bullet was slowed by a fifty-page speech, / which Teddy still gave. That’s a ‘tough’ you can’t teach.” Throughout, Raczka succeeds in portraying these historic leaders of the free world in a light seldom seen. To add to the fun, an appendix provides brief back stories to the historical tidbits inspiring each poem, ranging from educational miscellany like the origin of Barack Obama’s “Yes we can” campaign slogan in the motto of the United Farm Workers Union to such mindless trivia as 340-pound William Howard Taft and his infamous bathtub.

Lighthearted and entertaining, Raczka’s irreverent quatrains show middle graders no figure is too lofty for some poetic play. (Informational poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59643-980-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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