Both poetry and art succeed in being forceful without being preachy and sweet without being saccharine.

UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE

Grimes (Talkin’ About Bessie, p. 1530, etc.) explores the Christmas season through a poetic prism, examining both positive and negative aspects of the holiday.

In 23 poems, most focusing on one African-American family, she explores traditions such as unpacking decorations, big holiday dinners, shopping trips, playing in the snow, and ice skating. Other poems sensitively examine giving to others and the place of Jesus in the season. Grimes works effectively in a wide variety of poetic formats, from haiku to free verse to traditional rhyme schemes, with many poems in the first-person voice of the little girl shown with her mother and siblings on the rather dark cover. Many of the illustrations from rising star Nelson (Please, Baby, Please, p. 1533, etc.) are set at night and use this same subdued, candlelit effect. In the most memorable spread, the dramatic poem “Christmas Eve” captures the excitement of the special church service with the congregation “slightly giddy / And primed / For miracles.” The powerful facing illustration shows the little girl’s candle being lit by her father, passing along the flame of faith to his child. The final poem reprises this sentiment in a gentle haiku describing an angel (her daddy) kissing his daughter good-night.

Both poetry and art succeed in being forceful without being preachy and sweet without being saccharine. (Poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-688-15999-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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