Nit-picking aside, here be a collection that pint-sized pirates will be pleased to return to again and again.


Mother Goose exchanges sweet niceties for cutlasses, eyepatches, and gold teeth galore in this piratical updating of nursery-rhyme favorites.

If you’ve never wondered what Miss Muffet would look like in a cap decorated with a skull or pondered how Jack Horner would fare with a peg leg, now’s the time to remedy this woeful lack of imagination. Twenty-two classic nursery rhymes get a swashbuckling overhaul as Wee Willie Winkie becomes Pretty Polly Pirate, and Jack Sprat is upgraded to Capt. Jack. The book gets off to a rough start, scansion being its biggest difficulty in poems like “Rub-a-dub-dub” and “One Misty Moisty Morning.” Some poems get only minimal makeovers, merely substituting pirate terms for the original rhymes’ nouns (see: “Rock-a-by, Pirate”). Unsurprisingly, the best poems are the ones that are the most creative. For example, changing “London Bridge Is Falling Down” to “Ye Can Talk Like Pirates Talk” turns the rhyme into inspired interactive storytime fare. Each poem credits its original so that readers needn’t figure out the references from mere context or rhyme scheme. The rambunctious cartoon-style art does its share of the heavy lifting, presenting a nicely diverse array of salty sea dogs (even girls!) that exude boisterous vim and vigor.

Nit-picking aside, here be a collection that pint-sized pirates will be pleased to return to again and again. (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6559-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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There’s always tomorrow.


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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A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared.


Former Poet Laureate Herrera encourages his young readers to imagine all they might be in his new picture book.

Herrera’s free verse tells his own story, starting as a young boy who loves the plants and animals he finds outdoors in the California fields and is then thrust into the barren, concrete city. In the city he begins to learn to read and write, learning English and discovering a love for words and the way ink flows “like tiny rivers” across the page as he applies pen to paper. Words soon become sentences, poems, lyrics, and a means of escape. This love of the word ultimately leads him to make writing his vocation and to become the first Chicano Poet Laureate of the United States, an honor Herrera received in 2015. Through this story of hardship to success, expressed in a series of conditional statements that all begin “If I,” Herrera implores his readers to “imagine what you could do.” Castillo’s ink and foam monoprint illustrations are a tender accompaniment to Herrera’s verse, the black lines of her illustrations flowing across the page in rhythm with the author’s poetry. Together this makes for a charming read-aloud for groups or a child snuggled in a lap.

A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9052-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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