A powerful homage to the natural world, from England by way of Canada.

Combining poetic words (somewhat reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s poetry in their passion for the natural world) with truly stunning illustrations, this unusually beautiful book brings to readers the magic and wonder of nature. This is not a book about ecology or habitat; this is a book that encourages readers to revel in, and connect with, the natural world. Focusing on a particular subject, whether it be animal, insect, or plant, each poem (rendered in a variety of forms) delivers a “spell” that can be playful, poignant, or entreating. They are most effective when read aloud (as readers are encouraged to do in the introduction). Gorgeous illustrations accompany the words, both as stand-alone double-page spreads and as spot and full-page illustrations. Each remarkable image exhibits a perfect mastery of design, lively line, and watercolor technique while the sophisticated palette of warms and cools both soothes and surprises. This intense interweaving of words and pictures creates a sense of immersion and interaction—and a sense that the natural world is part of us. A glossary encourages readers to find each named species in the illustrations throughout the book­––and to go one step further and bring the book outside, to find the actual subjects in nature. Very much in the spirit of the duo’s magisterial The Lost Words (2018), this companion is significantly smaller than its sprawling companion; at just 6.5 by 4.5 inches when closed, it will easily fit into a backpack or generously sized pocket. “Wonder is needed now more than ever,” Macfarlane writes in the introduction, and this book delivers it.

 Breathtakingly magical. (Poetry. 6-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0779-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

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An often pleasant, time-skipping read that will engross fans of U.S. history, art, and architecture.



An offbeat novel that surveys American history from the 19th to 21st centuries through the unique perspective of an Italianate manor house and a garrulous portrait painting.

In this debut, architect Ashworth and composer Kander turn their artistic sensibilities to a narrative that explores ideas of progress, art, and the connections between humans and the places they live. Ambleside, a magnificent house built on a hill in Newton, Kansas, can see its surroundings but is unable to understand human language. A portrait of a woman named Mrs. Peale, hung within the house, can understand humans and communicate with the house but is only able to see things from its vantage point on the wall. The pair strike up a Socratic dialogue of sorts, combining their senses to piece together the story of the Hart family that inhabits Ambleside during its early years and to understand the sociocultural forces in the world around them. In this centurieslong conversation, Mrs. Peale acts as interlocutor for the endlessly curious house, taking up consideration of topics that range from household gossip to the substance of the soul. Readers also come to know Henry and Emmaline Hart, their three rambunctious daughters, and various other household staff members, friends, and descendants of the Hart family. The house and the painting share a charming fascination with etymology and classical antiquity, born out of the real Mrs. Peale’s time as an instructor of Greek and Latin at the Hartford Female Seminary, as well as a deep affection for the Harts that grows over decades. Throughout the narrative, the authors employ a light touch but also address weighty historical trends and events, including racial prejudice in the Jim Crow–era South, the women’s suffrage movement, the dire poverty of the Dust Bowl period, and two world wars. The detached perspective of the nonhuman protagonists offers a nuanced understanding of human nature, although the main characters’ moments of self-reflection are relatively few and fleeting, crowded out by quotidian meditations.

An often pleasant, time-skipping read that will engross fans of U.S. history, art, and architecture.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73691-125-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Blue Cedar Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2021

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A powerful and ingenious collection of personal artifacts—and the associated memories—in poetry form.



In this compact volume, poems are structured to resemble artifacts in a museum, with each piece focusing on an item significant to the author’s past.

Fusing together the experiences of a museum collection with an art exhibition, this journey explores miscellaneous pieces of Chang’s personal history, from “It’s a Lamp, Charlie Brown” and “On Jolly Holiday” to “Un-sippy Cup” (“Now my daughter drinks from the cup”). Although only featuring 12 poems, the volume includes some powerhouse works. “She Couldn’t Quite Explain It/[It] Had Always Just Been There…,” which deals with resilience and transformation, works on multiple levels and exemplifies the author’s strength at not only telling a wisdom-filled story, but immersing readers in the vividness of the narrative as well. Revolving around a mint green shelf that Chang and her lover plucked from the garbage while living in Manhattan, the poem reveals that the object—which was very much like the author (“defiantly wrong, / too loud and odd”)—outlived that relationship and made it through “five moves, / a marriage, and children.” The poem, while a forceful analogy, is made exponentially stronger by Chang’s descriptive prowess. As the piece begins, the author plunges readers into the time and place: “Wednesday mornings in the West Village / trash trucks lumber up the narrow streets early enough / to sound like rebuke, their metal bodies screech / and seize, startle us from slumber. / No residents stir that early—only shopworkers / blasting vomit from front stoops, scraping dogshit from the curb.” Masterful imagery coupled with insightful self-examination can be found throughout the collection. In “The Perfect Bathing Suit: A Forgery,” a one-piece suit that once transformed the poet into a Hollywood starlet is now a “pearly exoskeleton” that reminds her of a cicada shell clinging to a tree: “It is hard to believe that a warm, / living thing once smoothly filled this architecture. That she is gone.” Lastly, each piece is accompanied by a museum label, which brilliantly adds information and depth to the poem. For example, a label for “The Gift of Horseradish” says in part: “Artist Unknown, b. mid-20th century….Poured glass bottle, embossed Pierre Smirnoff label in red, white and gold approx. 8” tall, 375ml capacity.”

A powerful and ingenious collection of personal artifacts—and the associated memories—in poetry form.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 24

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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