A lighthearted collection that sometimes tackles weightier themes.

Rhymes and Doodles from a Wind-Up Toy

What do lost emails, fishermen’s tales, tentless campers, and windup toys have in common? They are all subjects of lighthearted poems for children and adults in this Shel Silverstein-esque collection by author/illustrator West (Longer than Forevermore, 2013, etc.).

After a short introductory poem on poetry, West introduces readers to feelings of loss of agency in “I Am Not a Wind-Up Toy”; the narrator says: “Conditions out of my control / Are winding up my key.” Though the theme resurfaces, and frequently narrators are exposed to topics outside of their control (whether a perfume atomizer being sprayed at them, a tent that’s blown away, or an audience that doesn’t believe a true story), what unites these poems is not a topic or theme but a tone. Whether she’s writing about family relationships or recipes renamed with the wrong ingredients, West writes in a lighthearted style, varying between alternate rhyme and limerick structures. Her rhyme schemes are steady, making lap reading pleasant. However, not all of the poems are of interest to children. “Son,” for example, closes with a mother’s wish: “I wish the wife he’ll have someday / Could share with me the joy / Of knowing him, as I do now... / This warm and cheerful boy.” The sentiment is lovely, but the poem is more likely to resonate with adult readers. Clever and humorous poems, such as “In the Moonlight,” in which the narrator anticipates being proposed to when really her beau just drops his keys, may go over the heads of young readers. While the diversity makes the collection hard to categorize, the poems are easy to enjoy, and the quirky, black-and-white sketched illustrations are amusing. Some of the best poems for children encourage creativity; one proclaims: “There is no Boss of Crayons.” In “Grandmother,” a young narrator describes her love for her grandmother, who “like[s] pretending things, / ‘Cause she remembers how.” These all-age poems are satisfying in a way that the adult poems aren’t, despite their clever sendups of emails that wind up in the ether.

A lighthearted collection that sometimes tackles weightier themes.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988678408

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Park Place Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2015

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A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.


A debut multigenre collection of short pieces presents vignettes focusing on the lives of African Americans from a variety of perspectives, both real and fanciful.

This eclectic anthology begins with an autobiographical sketch, “P Is for Pride and Perseverance,” in which King traces his early years from his 1979 birth to a 16-year-old mother to his incarceration for attempted robbery and his subsequent determination to do something positive with his life. “Baby Girl” reprises the story of King’s birth from his mother’s point of view, a girl whose teen pregnancy seems predestined by both her grandmother’s clairvoyant dreams and her own limited expectations. Other narratives are linked by shared characters, such as “Posse Up, Ladies First!” and “Thug Angel,” which provide somewhat idealized portraits of street gangs as building blocks of the black community. “Battle Kats” is an SF work about a group of humanoid felines from another planet who work undercover to defend Earth and its alien allies. The central section of the book is occupied by a collection of 21 poems. Some, like “Hold on to Love” and “Away From Home,” focus on romance while others, such as “The Rent Is Too Damn High!” and “Blockstars,” illuminate the experiences of working-class African Americans in inner-city neighborhoods. “Remember Me?” calls up the spirit of LaTasha Harlins, a young black woman shot by a Los Angeles shop owner in the early ’90s, speculating “I wonder what you could have been LaTasha?” King’s efforts to describe his personal struggles and the vibrant characters who populate impoverished black communities are ambitious and dynamic. His prose narratives are too short to feel really complete, but they deliver glimpses into a world mainly familiar to the urban poor, where drug dealing is one of the few available career choices, incarceration is a rite of passage, and street gangs view themselves as community leaders. While the author does have a tendency to romanticize life on the street, as in “Posse Up,” in which a girl gang maintains a strict “code of principles,” his writing presents a vision of what could happen if people worked to “play a part in the improvement of the community.”

A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.

Pub Date: March 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4568-8093-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A nihilistic poetic remembrance that will appeal most to older teens and 20-somethings.


Davis recounts the confounding pressures of his 1990s childhood in this debut memoir-in-verse.

When telling the story of your life, one might as well start at the very beginning. That’s exactly what the author does in this memoir, which he describes as “a thing like a very long lie to yourself.” Specifically, he tells of how “The White-Gloved Sheriff / kicked in the door / and / Pulled me” from his mother (whom he calls his “Supervisor”; he later calls her “the Computer Science Major,” “the Waitress,” and other occupational names). Unusually, he had horns and a lot of hair at birth, he says. He was immediately at odds with the people and other living things around him—his parents, his brothers, his family dog. As a toddler, he created an imaginary world for himself known as “FU,” which was “Filled with things that looked like me / And where things made sense / I was King.” His earliest years were characterized by horrible discoveries (school work, isolation, crushes, problems in his parents’ marriage), but his teen years proved to be an even greater series of highs and lows, involving confusion over geopolitical events, friends, computers, pornography, and marijuana. Like a novice who can’t quite figure out the rules of a game, Davis bumbles forward—all horns and fur and misunderstanding—inadvertently angering authority figures as he seeks an adequate method of self-expression. The poem is composed in short, direct lines, enjambed to emphasize particular words or phrases rather than establish a consistent overall rhythm. Davis’ idiolect is inventive in its names for things (siblings are “life partners,” pets are “prisoners,” teachers are “Part-Time Supervisors,” and so on), and his outsider’s observations of society are shrewd and often funny. However, the combination of snark and self-seriousness causes some poems to come off as petulant and cloying; as a result, it’s difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 22 finding the work emotionally affecting. Even so, the tone and style, coupled with debut artist Klimov’s truly engaging black-and-white illustrations should captivate readers of a certain anarchic mindset.

A nihilistic poetic remembrance that will appeal most to older teens and 20-somethings.

Pub Date: May 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71806-449-2

Page Count: 143

Publisher: Nada Blank Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2018

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