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Lukoff’s sophisticated silliness hits the sweet spot for lovers of wordplay

A nonsensical illustrated primer on prosody.

One of the most memorable scenes in Lukoff’s madcap picture-book debut, A Storytelling of Ravens, illustrated by Natalie Nelson (2018), involves hippos racing to investigate an “explosion at the cupcake factory.” Here Lukoff reprises this notion of industrial-sized catastrophe, revealing in the author’s note that it was inspired by a college friend’s award-winning intentionally bad poem. This background helps drive the wacky poetic in-jokes adorning this inventive exploration of the mechanics of poetry as the endearing Kilmer Watts finds employment at Amalgamated Verse & Strophe, a thriving factory that ships “everything from odes to epithalamiums to markets across the land.” Kilmer takes quickly to his new vocation, learning how to “operate the meter meter and empty the cliché bins,” though not without the occasional mistake, resulting in some oversyllabified haikus and “several sheets of blank verse” coming out “entirely blank.” Hoffmann’s playfully expressive double-page illustrations feature views of sausage-shaped humans amid wild visions of cogs and wheels. They heighten Lukoff’s guffaws, extending the wordplay; the enjambment machine is cleverly marked with the labels “EN / JAMB / MENT,” for instance. When the forecasted factory disaster comes to pass, Kilmer finds an even better role for poetry and himself in town, providing a glimpse beyond verse’s structure to its meaning. Rich backmatter on poetic structure and a glossary make this a solid reference as well.

Lukoff’s sophisticated silliness hits the sweet spot for lovers of wordplay . (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-132-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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

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No substitute for blankets or shelter, but perhaps a way of securing some warmth for those in need.

Gaiman’s free-verse meditation on coming in from, or at least temporarily fending off, the cold is accompanied by artwork from 13 illustrators.

An ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the author put out a social media appeal in 2019 asking people about their memories of warmth; the result is this picture book, whose proceeds will go to the UNHCR. For many refugees and other displaced persons, Gaiman writes, “food and friends, / home, a bed, even a blanket, / become just memories.” Here he gathers images that signify warmth, from waking in a bed “burrowed beneath blankets / and comforters” to simply holding a baked potato or being offered a scarf. Using palettes limited to black and the warm orange in which most of the text is printed, an international slate of illustrators give these images visual form, and 12 of the 13 add comments about their intentions or responses. The war in Ukraine is on the minds of Pam Smy and Bagram Ibatoulline, while Majid Adin recalls his time as a refugee in France’s “Calais jungle” camp. “You have the right to be here,” the poet concludes, which may give some comfort to those facing the cold winds of public opinion in too many of the places where refugees fetch up. The characters depicted are diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

No substitute for blankets or shelter, but perhaps a way of securing some warmth for those in need. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063358089

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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