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I AM THE BOOK by Lee Bennett Hopkins


edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Yayo

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: March 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2119-0
Publisher: Holiday House

In a whole that definitely doesn’t measure up to the sum of its parts, this sadly uneven collection opens with six inventive celebrations in which books and water are interwoven themes. It closes with five landlocked tributes to bookishness and shoehorns in between one off-topic contribution by Hopkins and another by Jane Yolen. Eight of the 13 poems are new, and all (of the relevant ones) share a sense of excitement at, as Karla Kuskin puts it, “all wonders of wandering / wonderful pages,” from Beverly McLoughland’s soothing “ebb and flow of tidal words / Easy under me,” to the soaring promise in Tom Robert Shield’s title poem: “I’ll plant in you / a spring-seedling / with bursting life / while you are reading. / I am the book / You are needing.” Yayo gamely tries to provide at least an impression of unity with a typically lighthearted series of sea- and beachscapes with books taking on such roles as a whale’s tail and an entire ocean, but several of the poems just don’t lend themselves to that sort of setting. A poor successor to Hopkins’ Good Books, Good Times (1990), flawed by a lack of cohesive vision and particularly by Yolen’s sour “Words that take / a thought, / a wish, / a sentiment, / a prayer, / and then suck out / all the air.” (Picture book/poetry. 8-10)