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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

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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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For places where the first-grade shelves are particularly thin.

The traditional song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets a school makeover as readers follow a cheery narrator through the first 12 days of first grade.

“On the first day of first grade / I had fun right away // laughing and learning all day!” In these first two spreads, Jennings shows the child, who has brown skin and a cloud of dark-brown hair, entering the schoolyard with a diverse array of classmates and settling in. In the backgrounds, caregivers, including a woman in hijab, stand at the fence and kids hang things on hooks in the back of the room. Each new day sees the child and their friends enjoying new things, previous days’ activities repeated in the verses each time so that those listening will soon be chiming in. The child helps in the classroom, checks out books from the library, plants seeds, practices telling time and counting money, leads the line, performs in a play, shows off a picture of their pet bunny, and does activities in gym, music, and art classes. The Photoshop-and-watercolor illustrations portray adorable and engaged kids having fun while learning with friends. But while the song and topic are the same, this doesn’t come close to touching either the hysterical visuals or great rhythm of Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003).

For places where the first-grade shelves are particularly thin. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266851-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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