Laugh-out-loud nonsense poetry combine with cutting-edge paper collages for an irresistible picture book. Hort, familiar to readers as the author of the far more sober Reading Rainbow selection How Many Stars in the Sky? (1991) here reveals his wacky, endearing side. This book should come with a disclaimer: “Warning: Regular classroom read-alouds from this perky collection of 18 poems could cause a room full of second graders to dissolve into uncontrollable giggles.” And who could resist “When Groundhog Slides Down the Chimney,” which reminds readers that it’s time to “carve your eggs and paint your pumpkins” as “Columbus, it will soon be Christmas!” Beware—if you’re trying to soothe little ones before bed, do not read “Lullaby,” which urges kids to first “open your eyes” and then “close your eyes, it’s time to wake. . . . Come taste your breakfast rattlesnake.” Readers will enjoy the delicious “Broccoli Pie” and the “peppery cool / and lemony sweet” taste of “A Pair of Purple Oranges.” “I Drove Over Oceans,” with its pleasing echo of the old jump rope favorite “Johnny over the ocean, Johnny over the sea . . .” could sweep 21st-century playgrounds. Kids and teachers may be inspired to try their own hands at nonsense verse. But caution is recommended. Kids might find these poems too sidesplitting to settle down and write. Kroninger’s bright and wacky cut-paper collages vibrate with energy. Incorporating eye-popping magazine photo images, they fairly burst from the pages and never fail to ratchet up the hilarity. (Poetry. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-83195-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared.


Former Poet Laureate Herrera encourages his young readers to imagine all they might be in his new picture book.

Herrera’s free verse tells his own story, starting as a young boy who loves the plants and animals he finds outdoors in the California fields and is then thrust into the barren, concrete city. In the city he begins to learn to read and write, learning English and discovering a love for words and the way ink flows “like tiny rivers” across the page as he applies pen to paper. Words soon become sentences, poems, lyrics, and a means of escape. This love of the word ultimately leads him to make writing his vocation and to become the first Chicano Poet Laureate of the United States, an honor Herrera received in 2015. Through this story of hardship to success, expressed in a series of conditional statements that all begin “If I,” Herrera implores his readers to “imagine what you could do.” Castillo’s ink and foam monoprint illustrations are a tender accompaniment to Herrera’s verse, the black lines of her illustrations flowing across the page in rhythm with the author’s poetry. Together this makes for a charming read-aloud for groups or a child snuggled in a lap.

A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9052-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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