SWIMMING UPSTREAM

MIDDLE SCHOOL POEMS

In simply worded verse, George (Little Dog and Duncan, not reviewed, etc.) writes of lockers and lunches, new friends and typical experiences, as she tracks a child’s first year of middle school. She invites readers stepping across that (or any) threshold to embrace change: “Where do I fit? / Nothing is clear. / Can already tell / this will be / a jigsaw year” becomes, in “Long Jump,” “I can do anything. / All I need / is a running start,” and by “Last Day of School,” “I am shining / from the inside out.” Aside from a superficial poem about “the boy who’s so tough / the one who scares us so much,” plus a few passing anxieties, there’s little sign of tears or fears here—just a growing sense of self-confidence, a promise of good things to come calculated, and apt, to buoy up young grammar school graduates. Illustrations not seen. (Poetry. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-15250-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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THE BUG IN TEACHER'S COFFEE

AND OTHER SCHOOL POEMS

PLB 0-06-027940-0 Dakos’s collection of 23 poems from the perspective of items found at school satisfies the I Can Read requirements of simplicity and word repetition, but may not lure beginning readers back for a second time. The material is uninspiring: The school’s front door says, “Keep me shut,/I have the flu,/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Achooooooooo!/Keep me shut,/I have the flu.” A book sings “Happy Birthday” to a ruler, then sings “Happy Unbirthday” when the ruler says that it is not its birthday. Also appearing are a couple of clever items—one on a kidnapped pencil and another on a comb pulling hazardous duty—along with some typographic elements that amiably convey the idea that words are malleable; Reed’s illustrations possess geniality and character, making some inanimate objects very personable. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-027939-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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ISN'T MY NAME MAGICAL?

SISTER AND BROTHER POEMS

Leaving behind much of the lyricism found in his previous collections, Berry (First Palm Trees, 1997, etc.) pens poems in the voices of a sister, Dreena (who has the magical name), and brother, Delroy, on their experiences in the family with a dour sister, mother (“A teacher, Mom has lots of pens/and home and school jobs”), and father, who “drives a train,/sometimes in a heavy jacket.” This father is not really poem-material: “And, sometimes, Dad brings us gifts./Sometimes, he plays our piano.” The brother, Delroy, who tenders three autobiographical poems, can’t sit still and can’t stop talking about it. There is a good declarative poem, about a strong friendship he shares with another boy. Otherwise, he is dancing like a madman (“doing body-break and body-pop”) or skateboarding under the influence of a fevered imagination (“I want one owl on each my shoulder/hooting out as I leap each river”). In her first book, Hehenberger takes a literal route, anchoring every poem in domestic scenes of family and friends; the deep colors and finely sculpted forms become set pieces for Berry’s earthbound images. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80013-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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