ROCK OF AGES

A poetic tribute to the sustaining power of the Black Church. Free verse celebrates the institution in its many incarnations from its beginnings on the plantations (when “she was / invisible . . . / her roof nightsky, / her flooring Godgrown pastures walled by woods . . . ”) and emphasizing the leaders and artists it has nurtured. Bolden’s (And Not Afraid to Dare, 1998) language is frequently labored, employing an unfortunate inverted syntax—“Multitudes she has mothered / in times of dense distress . . . ” and “wasn’t it she who raised in singles / and change much money”—that can stop readers in their tracks in order to decipher the meaning. Nevertheless, the work retains a heartfelt passion for its subject that is genuinely inspiring: “When we were the not-alloweds / and go-to-the-back-door people, / she was a warm place to be. . . . ” Christie’s (DeShawn Days, p. 868) bright, primitive-looking illustrations are bursting with expressive energy: on one page an old woman stares out through her glasses, challenging the reader to pity her; on another, members of a congregation raise their hands in glad chorus. Notes on the historical events or personages alluded to in the poem appear at the end with thumbnails of the relevant illustrations; an author’s note explains the genesis of the poem itself. Although somewhat ungainly at times, it’s ultimately moving. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2001

ISBN: 0-679-89485-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT

A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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