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

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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


A lushly illustrated homage to librarians who provide a welcome and a home away from home for all who enter.

A love letter to libraries.

A Black child, with hair in two puffballs tied with yellow ribbons, a blue dress with a Peter Pan collar, and black patent leather Mary Janes, helps Grandmother with the housework, then, at Grandmother’s suggestion, heads to the library. The child’s eagerness to go, with two books under an arm and one in their hand, suggests that this is a favorite destination. The books’ wordless covers emphasize their endless possibilities. The protagonist’s description of the library makes clear that they are always free to be themselves there—whether they feel happy or sad, whether they’re reading mysteries or recipes, and whether they feel “quick and smart” or “contained and cautious.” Robinson’s vibrant, carefully composed digital illustrations, with bright colors that invite readers in and textures and patterns in every image, effectively capture the protagonist’s passion for reading and appreciation for a space where they feel accepted regardless of disposition. In her author’s note, Giovanni states that she spent summers visiting her grandmother in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she went to the Carnegie Branch of the Lawson McGhee Library. She expresses gratitude for Mrs. Long, the librarian, who often traveled to the main library to get books that Giovanni could not find in their segregated branch. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A lushly illustrated homage to librarians who provide a welcome and a home away from home for all who enter. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-38765-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Versify/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022



From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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