Lukoff’s sophisticated silliness hits the sweet spot for lovers of wordplay

EXPLOSION AT THE POEM FACTORY

A nonsensical illustrated primer on prosody.

One of the most memorable scenes in Lukoff’s madcap picture-book debut, A Storytelling of Ravens, illustrated by Natalie Nelson (2018), involves hippos racing to investigate an “explosion at the cupcake factory.” Here Lukoff reprises this notion of industrial-sized catastrophe, revealing in the author’s note that it was inspired by a college friend’s award-winning intentionally bad poem. This background helps drive the wacky poetic in-jokes adorning this inventive exploration of the mechanics of poetry as the endearing Kilmer Watts finds employment at Amalgamated Verse & Strophe, a thriving factory that ships “everything from odes to epithalamiums to markets across the land.” Kilmer takes quickly to his new vocation, learning how to “operate the meter meter and empty the cliché bins,” though not without the occasional mistake, resulting in some oversyllabified haikus and “several sheets of blank verse” coming out “entirely blank.” Hoffmann’s playfully expressive double-page illustrations feature views of sausage-shaped humans amid wild visions of cogs and wheels. They heighten Lukoff’s guffaws, extending the wordplay; the enjambment machine is cleverly marked with the labels “EN / JAMB / MENT,” for instance. When the forecasted factory disaster comes to pass, Kilmer finds an even better role for poetry and himself in town, providing a glimpse beyond verse’s structure to its meaning. Rich backmatter on poetic structure and a glossary make this a solid reference as well.

Lukoff’s sophisticated silliness hits the sweet spot for lovers of wordplay . (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-132-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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OTHER GOOSE

RE-NURSERIED AND RE-RHYMED CHILDREN'S CLASSICS

“Little boy blue / come blow your tuba. / The sheep are in Venice, / and the cow’s in Aruba.” Pairing frenetic and garishly colored art to familiar rhymes in “more modern, more fresh, and well…more Goosian” versions, Seibold stakes out Stinky Cheese Man territory to introduce “Jack and Jill / and a pickle named Bill,” the Old Woman Who Lived in a Sneaker (“She had a great big stereo speaker”), Peter Pumpkin Pickle Pepper and about two dozen more “re-nurseried” figures. Against patterned or spray-painted backgrounds, an entire page of umbrella-carrying raindrops float down, a bunch of mice run up (“the clock struck one; / the rest had fun”), cats fiddle for Old King Coal and others, Jack B. Nimble makes a lifelong career out of demonstrating his one trick and a closing rendition of the counting rhyme “One, Two, I Lost My Shoe” is transformed into a clever reprise as many of the characters return to take final bows. Sparkles on the cover; chuckles (despite some lame rhyming) throughout. (Fractured nursery rhymes. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8118-6882-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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The combination of haiku, attractive illustrations, and interesting information makes this a keeper.

MORNING, SUNSHINE!

This picture book combines poetry with facts about nature.

Using the arrival of morning as its focus and theme, this nonfiction book provides information about animal, insect, and bird life along with some general natural science. From birds’ singing in the morning through moths’ finding quiet spots to rest as the sun rises to the daily routines of rabbits, foxes, and other animals, readers will discover fascinating facts about Earth’s creatures. Combining entertainment and information, this book not only features the lives of animals, but it also explains why the sky changes color throughout the day and how the Earth’s rotation creates the phenomena of day and night. Each double-page spread highlights a different creature or natural phenomenon; there’s a haiku on verso and on recto, a moderately sized paragraph with both commonly known and more unusual facts. Highlighted words stand out as obvious vocabulary builders; readers can learn their meanings in the appended glossary. The illustrations are large-scale and vivid, with the palette lightening over the course of the book as morning takes hold. Illustrations are graphically simple, with cheerful cartoon animals contributing to the upbeat mood. An added bonus is a page at the back encouraging readers to write their own nature haiku.

The combination of haiku, attractive illustrations, and interesting information makes this a keeper. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62317-385-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: North Atlantic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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