Joy indeed.

READ REVIEW

BOOKJOY, WORDJOY

The virtues of reading and playing with words collide in Mora and Colón’s latest collaboration.

Mora begins with an appeal: “Let’s read, let’s write, let’s explore galore!” The subsequent series of poems demonstrates the dual importance of bookjoy, “the fun of reading,” and wordjoy, “the fun of writing.” For the latter, see the second poem, entitled “Collecting Words,” which encourages readers to treasure words like “ding-dong” and “sssssssssssssnake.” Some poems follow a didactic arc (“Writing Secrets,” for example, aims to reassure budding writers), but most bask in wordplay and whimsy with aplomb. “Our Cottage in the Woods” focuses on a mother and her child in the woods, the garden, the “cool creek” as they watch hummingbirds and bake and read together. In the wonderful “Antelope Canyon,” the author describes the creation of a canyon, with “waterfalls / buffing sharp corners into curves, / careening around boulders.” In the accompanying illustration, Colón’s artwork shows a dark-skinned child at the bottom of a vibrant canyon gazing up at the night sky while an antelope does the same from above. Overall, the superb pictures feature a racially diverse cast—often with elongated, lively bodies—and landscapes full of curves and curls in bright, earthy colors. Not all poems hold up well, but the author peppers Spanish phrases here and there to add some new layers to a gratifying collection.

Joy indeed. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62014-286-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and...

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THE UNDEFEATED

Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans’ triumphs and challenges in the United States.

Alexander’s poetry possesses a straightforward, sophisticated, steady rhythm that, paired with Nelson’s detail-oriented oil paintings, carries readers through generations chronicling “the unforgettable,” “the undeniable,” “the unflappable,” and “the righteous marching ones,” alongside “the unspeakable” events that shape the history of black Americans. The illustrator layers images of black creators, martyrs, athletes, and neighbors onto blank white pages, patterns pages with the bodies of slaves stolen and traded, and extends a memorial to victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown past the very edges of a double-page spread. Each movement of Alexander’s poem is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of black people in the U.S., with textual references to the writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X dotting stanzas in explicit recognition and grateful admiration. The book ends with a glossary of the figures acknowledged in the book and an afterword by the author that imprints the refrain “Black. Lives. Matter” into the collective soul of readers, encouraging them, like the cranes present throughout the book, to “keep rising.”

An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow. (Picture book/poetry. 6-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-78096-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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