An eminently friendly introduction to both the poet and his spirit—deceptively simple, just like its subject.

ENORMOUS SMALLNESS

A STORY OF E.E. CUMMINGS

A picture-book biography of the poet, with appropriately quirky multimedia illustrations.

Burgess takes young readers from the birth of Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge in 1894 through his decades in Greenwich Village as an established poet. The economical text emphasizes his connections to the natural world, manifesting in his first poem, composed at the age of 3, and the loving support of his parents. Even as a boy, he played with words, inventing new ones and “squish[ing] others together.” Burgess chooses details that will speak to child readers: Estlin’s idyllic, streamside summers; his treehouse in Cambridge (equipped with a stove!); the encouragement of a favorite teacher; the “Krazy Kat” comic strips he affixed to his dorm walls; and especially, his effervescent, rule-breaking approach to writing poetry. Using muted, modernist hues, Di Giacomo incorporates letters and words into her double-page spreads, jumping them through a hoop in an imagined circus scene that emphasizes Estlin’s fearless wordplay and depicting them springing from the open pages of his first published book along with the titular Tulips & Chimneys. The use of a classic typewriter typeface to set cummings’ words apart from Burgess’ text is nicely apropos. Backmatter includes a chronology, the five poems, dated, that appear earlier in the book, an author’s note, and acknowledgments (which double as a bibliographic essay).

An eminently friendly introduction to both the poet and his spirit—deceptively simple, just like its subject. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59270-171-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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A tour de force of interactive two-dimensional nature.

IF YOU GO DOWN TO THE WOODS TODAY

From the Brown Bear Wood series

Four seasons’ worth of poetic exploration into the bustling woods.

Piercey presents here 16 poems containing tightly rhymed quatrains inviting young readers to follow Bear out of the confines of their homes and into the forest from spring through winter. Arranged in double-page spreads, Hartas’ sumptuously action-packed forest scenes are rife with so much fauna and flora that Piercey provides legends pointing readers toward “what to spot” on each spread. Bear narrates: “My woodland’s full of animals, / of every different kind. / So shall we stay here for a while / and see what we can find?” (A bit distractingly, some words are set in a faux handwriting typeface.) Items to find include such delights as a “baby chipmunk in a hammock” or “two birds returning from their winter break”—delicately drawn with tiny suitcases in their claws. In each kid-styled Breughel-like tableau, creatures are busy doing something—building nests, getting ready for school, or celebrating Bunny’s birthday; even Bear’s off playing hide-and-seek with mice. In summer, some go for swimming lessons while others stage a play. Autumn’s chill starts to wind down the fun, as trees turn “orange, scarlet, gold, / each leaf a tongue of flame”—perfect for inspiring art class. In Hartas’ gifted hands, Piercey’s thriving woodland society celebrates all the joys of communing with the elements and one another. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12.2-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 29.9% of actual size.)

A tour de force of interactive two-dimensional nature. (nature notes, further resources) (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5158-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Magic Cat

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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The attempt to present science in a humorous way is a well-meaning one, but the effect seems rather lame for today's...

FACE BUG

For kids who love bugs! Gruesome but fascinating photomicrographs of 14 different bugs are the focus of this unusual science book that combines poetry, line drawings and scientific facts to bring bugs alive for curious children.

The bad puns flow relentlessly as a collection of small bugs, illustrated in rather dated-looking black-and-white line, visits the Face Bug Museum, where they learn to drill like a carpenter bee, experience the stinkbug’s stench, sip on nectar at the snack bar and measure the speed of the green darner dragonfly. The insects on display at the “museum”—the hickory horned devil, goldenrod stowaway moth, praying mantis and other exotica—are portrayed in superb, full-color micrographs by renowned nature photographer Siskind. The large close-up of the “Clydesdale of all flies,” the American horsefly, is particularly impressive. Humorous poems by U.S. Poet Laureate Lewis describe each insect; of the dogday harvestfly cicada, he writes, “What?! Two faces / On this mutt? / Creepy. Never / Mind his butt.” Four pages of backmatter give the insects the opportunity to “narrate” a little more information about themselves. The insect jokes keep going all the way to the author bios, so determined is the book to remain light and accessible.

The attempt to present science in a humorous way is a well-meaning one, but the effect seems rather lame for today's visually sophisticated kids and might work better as an app than a book. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-925-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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