Whimsical, playful verse perfect for reading aloud, with charming illustrations.

PODGE

Ross offers light children’s verse in the manner of an extra-goofy Mother Goose.

What is a Podge? According to an opening verse, it’s “a Hodgeless Hodgepodge, / a pile of who knows what.” As such, it’s an appropriate title for this miscellany of children’s verse; even its organization is rather unorganized, consisting of three short sections: “THE SHALL-WE’S,” “MISHAPS of NO GREAT IMPORT,” and “THREE UNCLES and ONE ANT.” The entries within the three sections have individual titles also, as do all the remaining verses, which have no general headings. Despite the overall nonsense style, a few verses have a more serious undertone, like “The Puddle,” which starts off the first section. “Shall we jump in the puddle? / Of course. We have no choice. / There it is, and here we are, / still smart enough to trust the voice / telling us that we must.” Heeding an inner voice isn’t usually the stuff of nursery rhymes; however, such musings don’t characterize the collection, which soon becomes reliably lighthearted. A notable feature of the book is its array of silly names—Bingwen Ding, Gropius Gribble Houghton Huff, or the Blithering Blobulous Blabberoon. Place names can be correspondingly silly, as in Floopston and Gloopston. The book’s nonsense often recalls nursery rhymes, sometimes directly, but with fresh images or a contemporary spin: “Dom, Dom, the piper’s dog / lived a week in a hollow log”; “Little Bo Peep has lost her Jeep, / so now she cannot drive and beep.” Some verses seem to demand a Dr. Seuss­–like book of their own, such as “The Land Where the Scropalongs Roam,” which begins with these wonderfully adventurous lines: “Parkie O’Clapp found an old secret map / of The Land Where the Scropalongs Roam. / He set out one day in his Anteater Sleigh, / and chauffeured them back to his home.” However, the piece doesn’t really explore its premise, and several two-line verses in the collection feel similarly unfinished.

Though most characters seem to be White, there are some of color, such as “Nkechi Nkele,” a dark-skinned girl with a beaded hairstyle who sits on a cloud with a ginger-striped cat. Or is she actually sitting on a bed? “Maybe you are one of the few / who know that both of those are true.” Illustrator Wansink, a Belgian artist who calls herself a “builder of Dreams and Fairytales,” has exhibited her work in a Netherlands art gallery. The illustrations in this, her first children’s book, are reminiscent of painter Raoul Dufy’s faux naïve style, rendered in chalky yet vibrant colors. Her comical images, smiling people and animals, child’s-drawing proportions, and general sense of fun enrich the text. For example, the “Flying Flapjack on the Loose” does go astray, reappearing in “Here it Comes Again” and showing up without explanation in between verses, very much on the loose. Some images are reused with a few changes, such as Old Flopp on the railway platform or a soup-stirring cook.

Whimsical, playful verse perfect for reading aloud, with charming illustrations.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9903086-4-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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There’s always tomorrow.

TOMORROW IS WAITING

A lyrical message of perseverance and optimism.

The text uses direct address, which the title- and final-page illustrations suggest comes from an adult voice, to offer inspiration and encouragement. The opening spreads reads, “Tonight as you sleep, a new day stirs. / Each kiss good night is a wish for tomorrow,” as the accompanying art depicts a child with black hair and light skin asleep in a bed that’s fantastically situated in a stylized landscape of buildings, overpasses, and roadways. The effect is dreamlike, in contrast with the next illustration, of a child of color walking through a field and blowing dandelion fluff at sunrise. Until the last spread, each child depicted in a range of settings is solitary. Some visual metaphors falter in terms of credibility, as in the case of a white-appearing child using a wheelchair in an Antarctic ice cave strewn with obstacles, as the text reads “you’ll explore the world, only feeling lost in your imagination.” Others are oblique in attempted connections between text and art. How does a picture of a pale-skinned, black-haired child on a bridge in the rain evoke “first moments that will dance with you”? But the image of a child with pink skin and brown hair scaling a wall as text reads “there will be injustice that will challenge you, and it will surprise you how brave you can be” is clearer.

There’s always tomorrow. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-99437-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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