Unquestionably a labor of love, this is set in an inn presided over by William Blake. There, dragons bake the bread, angels shake the featherbeds, a tiger, a rabbit, a bear, and other animals fill the rooms, sunflowers request "a room with a view," and the only human guests we're introduced to are the little-boy narrator and "the man in the marmalade hat"—who arrives "equipped with a bottle of starch / to straighten the bends in the road," then proceeds to ask for "a room at the top." The first of Willard's 16 verses begins, "This inn belongs to William Blake / and many are the beasts he's tamed / and many are the stars he's named / and many those who stop and take / their joyful rest with William Blake." The verses are laced with fancies but formally tidy, as are the Provensens' charming period illustrations, which give a quaint prim cast to such dreamlike phenomena as a flying carriage, a breakfast table balanced on a rooftop (breakfast is "on the house"), and a parade of animals through the milky way, led by Blake, with the little boy astride the tiger. It's just as well that the Provensens' manner is poles apart from the visionary intensity of Blake's, but one wonders how Blake's work would inspire Willard to invoke his image and meter to such whimsical purpose. Still, the book is a visual pleasure, even beyond the illustrations, and the poetry accomplished, perhaps enchanting—as in " 'Where did you sleep last night, Wise Cow? / Where did you lay your head?' / / 'I caught my horn on a rolling cloud / and made myself a bed, / / and in the morning, ate it raw / on freshly buttered bread.' " It's a question of sensibility.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 1981

ISBN: 978-0-15-293823-9

Page Count: 52

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1981

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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An emotional and powerful story with soaring poetry.


A fourth grader navigates the complicated world of immigration.

Betita Quintero loves the stories her father tells about the Aztlán (the titular land of cranes), how their people emigrated south but were fabled to return. Betita also loves to write. She considers words like “intonation,” “alchemy,” and “freedom” to be almost magic, using those and other words to create picture poems to paint her feelings, just like her fourth grade teacher, Ms. Martinez, taught her. But there are also words that are scary, like “cartel,” a word that holds the reason why her family had to emigrate from México to the United States. Even though Betita and her parents live in California, a “sanctuary state,” the seemingly constant raids and deportations are getting to be more frequent under the current (unnamed) administration. Thinking her family is safe because they have a “petition…to fly free,” Betita is devastated when her dad is taken away by ICE. Without their father, the lives of the Quinteros, already full of fear and uncertainty, are further derailed when they make the small mistake of missing a highway exit. Salazar’s verse novel presents contemporary issues such as “zero tolerance” policies, internalized racism, and mass deportations through Betita’s innocent and hopeful eyes, making the complex topics easy to understand through passionate, lyrical verses.

An emotional and powerful story with soaring poetry. (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-34380-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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