MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB

This classic poem, written in 1830, continues to be a favorite childhood rhyme for illustrators to illuminate. Huliska-Beith has chosen to illustrate her version with acrylic, gouache and fabric collages, digitally assembled. Her style aims for gently exaggerated humor, especially the schoolkids’ reactions when they "see a lamb at school." The characters have oversized heads, fabric-patterned clothing and teeny noses. Mary is blonde with puffy, rouged cheeks and wears red cowboy boots, while the lamb’s coat looks like swirls of meringue. Most modern readers will probably be surprised to discover several extra stanzas, and the sentimental, 19th-century language may leave them cold: The teacher advises the children, "And you each gentle animal / in confidence may bind, / and make them follow at your call, / if you are always kind." An author’s note provides a bit of history of the rhyme, citing a dubious (evidently unfounded) claim by Mary Sawyer Tyler that she was the “original” Mary. There is a flock of versions, from board books to big books, and spoofs (Jack Lechner and Bob Staake fracture the tale in Mary Had a Little Lamp, 2008) to sing-alongs, but many are out of print. Kids will respond to the embellished silliness of this one, but for charm, Salley Mavor’s stitchery images can’t be beat (2000). Music is not included. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7614-5824-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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While there are many rhyming truck books out there, this stands out for being a collection of poems.

DIGGER, DOZER, DUMPER

Rhyming poems introduce children to anthropomorphized trucks of all sorts, as well as the jobs that they do.

Adorable multiethnic children are the drivers of these 16 trucks—from construction equipment to city trucks, rescue vehicles and a semi—easily standing in for readers, a point made very clear on the final spread. Varying rhyme schemes and poem lengths help keep readers’ attention. For the most part, the rhymes and rhythms work, as in this, from “Cement Mixer”: “No time to wait; / he can’t sit still. / He has to beg your pardon. / For if he dawdles on the way, / his slushy load will harden.” Slonim’s trucks each sport an expressive pair of eyes, but the anthropomorphism stops there, at least in the pictures—Vestergaard sometimes takes it too far, as in “Bulldozer”: “He’s not a bully, either, / although he’s big and tough. / He waits his turn, plays well with friends, / and pushes just enough.” A few trucks’ jobs get short shrift, to mixed effect: “Skid-Steer Loader” focuses on how this truck moves without the typical steering wheel, but “Semi” runs with a royalty analogy and fails to truly impart any knowledge. The acrylic-and-charcoal artwork, set against white backgrounds, keeps the focus on the trucks and the jobs they are doing.

While there are many rhyming truck books out there, this stands out for being a collection of poems. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5078-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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This mix of clever poems, handsome art and well-chosen typography, despite a few minor flaws, will function equally well for...

IN THE SEA

This third pairing of Elliott’s reductive poems and Meade’s bold woodcut-and-watercolor illustrations dives deep to explore sea creatures, from tiny shrimp to the mighty blue whale.

Elliott’s poems are short and pithy, often combining elegant metaphor and child-friendly diction.  “Five fingers, / like a hand, / the starfish shines / in a sky of sand.” He doesn’t shy from big words that expand children’s imaginations and vocabularies: An octopus is “an eight-armed apparition.” Humorous touches pleasantly conjure Douglas Florian’s poetry.  The puffer fish is “A trickster. / A clown. / A magician. / A buffoon. / One minute / she’s a fish; / the next, / she’s a balloon.” Meade’s pictures combine appropriately watery washes with black-inked woodcuts. She conjures the “before” and “after” capabilities of said puffer fish, and her Moray eel undulates fearsomely. Not every spread is completely successful. “The Clown Fish” riffs on inter-species symbiosis, but Elliott stumbles with the possessive phrase “its enemies”—inviting confusion as to whether anemone stings its own enemies, or the clown fish’s. Meade’s shark, possibly a great white, prominently sports stylized throat grooves that more resemble several species of whale.

This mix of clever poems, handsome art and well-chosen typography, despite a few minor flaws, will function equally well for bedtime sharing and early-learning settings. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4498-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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