THE KITCHEN TALKS

The inanimate denizens of the kitchen nab the limelight in this somewhat uneven, amusingly illustrated collection of 20 short poems. Much of the verse employs personification—the refrigerator, pot holder and rolling pin drolly narrate their own poems. In others, the narrative voice becomes oddly anonymous, as in the two-line poem “Freezer”: “Cold as ice / But no goose bumps.” Tired initial simile aside, the question of goose bumps seems an odd introduction in a collection focused on objects. Mathers’s light touch redeems this same double spread with a funny, sneak-peek interior: A fish juggles lima beans atop a carton of strawberry ice cream, near a box of “Hungry Dude” pizza. Some poems stand out for their playful metaphors and puns: “Toaster” is “Jack-in-the-box / For bread”; “Paper Towels” enjoins “ . . . Don’t stop me now—I’m on a roll.” Mozelle brings the precision demanded by the short form to many, but not all, of these poems. Mathers’s cheerfully quirky watercolors notwithstanding, this collection neither falls flat nor rises above. (Poetry. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8050-7143-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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A quirky, fun story that will appeal to young audiences looking for a little bit of scare, with a premise so good it...

FEAR THE BUNNY

A tiger can’t believe it’s being upstaged in this picture-book riff on William Blake’s famous poem.

A group of zoologically diverse animals huddle around a fire, listening to a porcupine read from a chilling poem: “Bunnies, bunnies, burning bright, / in the forests of the night—.” An incredulous tiger interrupts, saying that the poem is actually about it. But a squirrel matter-of-factly states that “Here, it’s ‘bunnies, bunnies.’ ” The tiger still doesn’t understand why the animals would be so afraid of bunnies but not afraid of tigers and tries to explain why it, an apex predator, is far more threatening. The smaller animals remain unimpressed, calmly telling the tiger that “In this forest, we fear the bunny” and that it should “Hide now, before it’s too late.” An amusing and well-done premise slightly disappoints at the climax, with the tiger streaking away in terror before a horde of headlamp-wearing bunnies, but eager readers never learn what, exactly, the bunnies would do if they caught up. But at the end, a group of tigers joins the other animals in their awestruck reading of the adapted Blake poem, included in full at the end. Cute, fuzzy illustrations contrast nicely with the dark tone and forest background.

A quirky, fun story that will appeal to young audiences looking for a little bit of scare, with a premise so good it overcomes a weak conclusion. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7800-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it.

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I TALK LIKE A RIVER

A young boy describes how it feels to stutter and how his father’s words see him through “bad speech day[s].”

Lyrical, painfully acute language and absorbing, atmospheric illustrations capture, with startling clarity, this school-age child’s daily struggle with speech. Free verse emulates the pauses of interrupted speech while slowing down the reading, allowing the words to settle. When coupled with powerful metaphors, the effect is gut-wrenching: “The P / in pine tree / grows roots / inside my mouth / and tangles / my tongue.” Dappled paintings inspire empathy as well, with amorphous scenes infused with the uncertainty that defines both the boy’s unpredictable speech and his melancholy. Specificity arrives in the artwork solely at the river, where boy and father go after a particularly bad morning. Scenery comes into focus, and readers feel the boy’s relief in this refuge where he can breathe deeply, be quiet, and think clearly. At this extraordinary book’s center, a double gatefold shows the child wading in shimmering waters, his back to readers, his face toward sunlight. His father pulls his son close and muses that the boy “talk[s] like a river,” choppy in places, churning in others, and smooth beyond.  (Father and son both appear White.) Young readers will turn this complex idea over in their minds again and again. The author includes a moving autobiographical essay prompting readers to think even further about speech, sounds, communication, self-esteem, and sympathy.

An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4559-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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