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



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



A charming exploration of children’s special relationship with nature.

The story of a young Black boy who “fell in love with a field.”

The book opens with a peaceful scene of Emile sitting in a field overrun with wildflowers of various colors. This is his favorite haunt, where he and his little black dog spend countless hours undisturbed, daydreaming and communing with blossoms and insects. Emile—who often whispers lovingly to the field and regards it as a sentient companion—reflects on all the things the field will never get to experience. Although the field knows the four seasons and “how many stars / there were / and just how far,” it will never get to see the sea and skyscrapers. When winter comes and snow covers the field, Emile worries, wondering where the field goes when it disappears. And when some noisy children invade the field to sled and build snowpals, Emile hates that he has to share his beloved sanctuary, until his dad teaches him that love is not about possession but appreciation. Although some readers may pause at the unconventional punctuation, Young’s gentle, sparely worded narrative endearingly captures the animistic, magical thinking of children and the joy of tranquil childhood hours spent in nature. The impressionistic, atmospheric artwork—rendered in watercolor and ink—underscores the dreamy, spontaneous nature of Emile’s outdoor adventures and features open compositions that create a sense of expansiveness. All characters present Black except one White background character.

A charming exploration of children’s special relationship with nature. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984850-42-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Make Me a World

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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