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Slim pickings for personal or public performance.

Layton’s sketchy portraits of active, popeyed children and creatures animate a slender gathering of verse.

Though undeniably zippy as advertised, the 19 poems here vary widely in quality of both execution and presentation. Carter starts off with a pair of lively but ordinary fingerplays (“Four little fingers / add one thumb - / and what / have you got…? / A handful / of FUN!”) and a title poem that, in order to fit its allotted spread, confusingly leaves the recurrent chorus to be filled in by readers after the first iteration. The author goes on to follow a “Scratch & Sniff Bear” down and up a mountain, string together several unchallenging puzzle poems, compile a recipe for “Night Soup,” and finish with verse about space, hugs, and being happy. Aside from a few bright spots, like a catalog of “Busy Bugs”—“wiggly bugs / that hide in sand / tickly bugs / that like your hand”—the rhyming runs the gamut from arbitrary to uninspired: “Fancy a ride on an ELEPHANT?/ What a hoot it’ll be, all tickety-boo / when you’re on board, so come on you!” “I whizz ’round / Jupiter, Saturn and / the sun. Yeah, / I’m a little / alien, life is fun!” Layton depicts a brown-skinned young wheelchair user having a “Conversation With a Fly,” and others of diverse skin color peer at bugs or hold out hands. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Slim pickings for personal or public performance. (Picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2023

ISBN: 9781913074104

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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A warm portrait that even those unfamiliar with the iconic poet will likely enjoy.

The imagined events of one day in the early life of Emily Dickinson foreshadow her future creations.

Yolen sets the stage with an opening caption announcing it’s “spring 1834, Amherst, Massachusetts.” Young Emily, a smiling, round-headed child, takes scraps of paper from beneath her father’s desk, scribbles on them, and tries to share the results. Largely ignored by her father, she finds Mrs. Mack, a friendly woman busy in the kitchen, to be more receptive. Mrs. Mack listens to Emily’s poem “Frog and bog!” and pronounces it “A very good rhyme indeed.” After a trip upstairs to see her mother and baby sister, Emily ventures outside to share her words with the flowers and revel in the beauties of nature. Re-entering the house, Emily finds an envelope that prompts her to start thinking of rhymes again. Line breaks in most sentences and the way the text blocks are placed on the pages give the appearance of poetry. Although relatively lengthy, the text moves along smoothly with plenty of appealing turns of phrase and engaging images. Davenier’s lively illustrations, created with watercolor ink, vary in size and placement. Lightly sketched settings and period details offer some context. The author’s note fills in a few details while acknowledging that little is known about Dickinson’s childhood. The appended poems relate to words and ideas that appear in the story.

A warm portrait that even those unfamiliar with the iconic poet will likely enjoy. (bibliography) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-12808-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Natural history from decidedly offbeat angles.

Wielding crayons and broad, inked brushes, a Finnish artist offers freestyle images of 26 wild animals of land and sea.

The free-verse poetic flights (or Jeremiah’s translations) that Järvinen pairs to each of Merz’s animal portraits are technically accurate but sound fanciful: “Here comes the multi-purpose marvel of the jungle, / Elephant and TRUNK!” And: “The bear combs through the ant hill with its big paws / and pops its occupants into his mouth.” Sharing a like disregard for the conventional approach, the art, inspired (as the artist explains) by dim childhood memories rather than actual models, is largely composed of semi-abstract jumbles of geometric shapes and shadowy blobs, disconnected or oddly jointed limbs rendered with a few quick strokes, and scribbles or washes of thin primary hues. The creatures are largely unrecognizable without the printed cues adjacent, but the overall effect is one of lively activity, with occasional surprises, such as a clump of sinuous, scary-looking jellyfish on a vivid blue background—think H.P. Lovecraft à la Henri Matisse—and a trio of polar bears, two of which are pitch black (as polar bears are, beneath their fur), to give viewers pause. Leading questions or suggestions at each poem’s end (“Have you tried walking like a camel?”) will provoke further reactions from fledgling animal lovers. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-24-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

Natural history from decidedly offbeat angles. (Picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63206-268-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Yonder

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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