This collection of 20 poems inspired by the poet’s volunteer work in a kindergarten lunchroom is united by authorship; entries address a variety of topics and are expressed in multiple styles.
The subject matter is generally accessible and of interest, including family vignettes (“The Snow Is Melting”), feelings (“afterschool”), animals (“a spider way of thinking,” “Owl Secrets”), and toys (“My Cars Never Sleep”). Length and format vary too: “Little Yellow House” is only nine words long; others have several stanzas. Not all utilize traditional capitalization and punctuation. Some layouts are straightforward, left-justified and single- or double-spaced; others feature irregular spaces between lines or between phrases on the same line but are not quite concrete poetry. Figurative language is especially effective in “The Envelope,” a litany of ways a child thinks of their mother. Most read well out loud, with appropriate scansion and without the pitfall of forced rhyme. Derby’s sophisticated illustrations, done in watercolor, digital collage, and India ink, have a subdued tone and leave room for the imagination; some are simple, small vignettes on white space, while others feature gently washy backgrounds.
The poetry here is well-done, and although there is no real topical or stylistic cohesion, the assortment offers something for readers with varying preferences. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9)