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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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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This extraordinary book will make it hard for any child reader to settle for the mundaneness of reality.

WHAT IF...

A testament to the power of an imaginative mind.

A compulsively creative, unnamed, brown-skinned little girl with purple hair wonders what she would do if the pencil she uses “to create…stories that come from my heart” disappeared. Turns out, it wouldn’t matter. Art can take many forms. She can fold paper (origami), carve wood, tear wallpaper to create texture designs, and draw in the dirt. She can even craft art with light and darkness or singing and dancing. At the story’s climax, her unencumbered imagination explodes beyond the page into a foldout spread, enabling readers both literally and figuratively to see into her fantasy life. While readers will find much to love in the exuberant rhyming verse, attending closely to the illustrations brings its own rewards given the fascinating combinations of mixed media Curato employs. For instance, an impressively colorful dragon is made up of different leaves that have been photographed in every color phase from green to deep red, including the dragon’s breath (made from the brilliant orange leaves of a Japanese maple) and its nose and scales (created by the fan-shaped, butter-colored leaves of a gingko). Sugar cubes, flower petals, sand, paper bags, marbles, sequins, and lots more add to and compose these brilliant, fantasy-sparking illustrations.

This extraordinary book will make it hard for any child reader to settle for the mundaneness of reality. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39096-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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