Prelutsky changes pace and adopts a philosophical tone in a set of animal riddles framed as first-person haiku: “Gaudily feathered, / With nothing at all to say, / I can’t stop talking.” Answers are provided at the end, but they’re superfluous, as Rand fills each spread with gorgeous inked-and-brushed figures; the parrot’s plumage is more iridescent than “gaudy,” a skunk’s white stripes and tail explode like fireworks against a solidly black background, a mouse peers anxiously through its dimly lit hole, inches away from a feline nose. “If not for the cat, / And the scarcity of cheese, / I could be content.” As the solutions are there on the page, this works best if children don’t see the picture until they’ve heard the riddle, and had a chance to guess who’s posing it. But even in this uncharacteristic form, Prelutsky’s poetry is as engaging as ever, Rand has outdone himself, and the collaboration is likely to become as much of a storytime favorite as Beatrice Schenk De Regniers’s classic It Does Not Say Meow (1972). (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-059677-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004



Marvelously crafted to inspire blooming writers.

This companion to Alexander and Sweet’s How To Read a Book (2019) offers children a path from swirling inspiration to poetry.

Alexander and Nikaido’s own poem, blossoming with metaphor, its similes multiplying like mushrooms, locates its advice in nature. “Begin / with a question, / like an acorn / waiting for spring.” Their free verse, at once economical and luminous, beautifully charts the process from thought to expression, inviting children to imagine boundlessly. Accentuating the work of poem-making, the authors offer advice on handling those teeming words: “Invite them / into your paper boat / and row row row / across the wild white expanse.” Sweet’s gouache-and-watercolor illustrations depict diverse, dynamically active people within a colorful universe of collaged cut shapes, word-strewn vintage papers, pebbles, and hand-lettered text. Endlessly inventive, she affixes a drawing to loose-leaf paper, making its straight lines leap up and over three rowboats. Opposite, a group of kids collect letter shapes in a vessel folded from an old book page. Echoing the sentiment of an introductory quote from poet Nikki Giovanni (“We are all either wheels or connectors. Whichever we are, we must find truth and balance, which is a bicycle”), the double spreads are peppered with circles, curves, and loops. Alexander and Nikaido end with a final, heartfelt call to poets-in-training: “Now, show us what you’ve found.” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Marvelously crafted to inspire blooming writers. (notes from Alexander and Sweet) (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9780063060906

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023



Echoing Ashley Wolff’s 1988 approach to Stevenson’s poetic tribute to the power of imagination, Kirk begins with neatly drawn scenes of a child in a playroom, assembling large wooden blocks into, “A kirk and a mill and a palace beside, / And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.” All of these acquire grand architectural details and toy-like inhabitants as the pages turn, until at last the narrator declares, “Now I have done with it, down let it go!” In a final twist, the young city-builder is shown running outside, into a well-kept residential neighborhood in which all the houses except his have been transformed into piles of blocks. Not much to choose between the two interpretations, but it’s a poem that every child should have an opportunity to know. (Picture book/poetry. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-86964-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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