British poet Hegley here assembles 45 poems offering light, sometimes wildly offbeat perspectives on a variety of topics.
Loosely following the alphabet—“A Mosquito” is included under “A”; likewise, “Invisible Hamster” helps represent “I”—Hegley presents young readers with some odd thoughts as well as both common and not-so-common members of the animal kingdom. Though mostly presented in free verse, the occasional rhyme helps sets the playful tone: “To an alligator, you look yum. / You are yum to the tum of an alligator. / Though you think and you can feel, / To an alligator, you are a meal deal.” In many instances, Hegley’s often scribbly, black-and-white illustrations (Rawlinson has provided the letters) reinforce his quirky sense of humor, such as in “Micycle,” which features a sketch of a bike with a mouse for a seat offering its ears as handle bars, or “Xylofox,” a most unusual creature that “eats its words off armour plates” and whose rough, foxy frame consists mostly of a xylophone and fluffy tail. While many of Hegley’s ditties are accessible enough for children to find amusing, a handful sport a thematic level of sophistication better appreciated by adults. Along with some advanced vocabulary, young American readers may be stymied by various Briticisms never encountered before—even when presented by characters as familiar as the lice-checking school nurse, “Nitty Nora—The Bug Explorer!”
Wide-ranging poems and whimsical illustrations combine to yield uneven degrees of comedic success. (Poetry. 9-13)