Book review: Hypnotize a Tiger, by Calef Brown

Brown, Calef. Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything. Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, 2015. 138 p. $17.99. ISBN 9780805099287. Grades 1st-8th. P8Q7

Brown Hypnotize a TigerHypnotize a Tiger is a collection of original poems by Calef Brown, an illustrator known for his loose two-dimensional style. As the title implies, these poems have diverse subjects. Brown writes a poem about a turtle who wears a fez, one about falafel, and one about a frozen oboe. Themed sections rein in the random miscellany a tad. The most successful theme focuses on animal subjects. In the least successful section, Brown composes poems around “wordcrashes” that he misidentifies as portmanteaus. (These were disappointing to a reader who expected word blending à la Lewis Carroll.) Much of the word choice in this collection seems to be selected for the sake of the rhyme. The result is silly, nonsensical poetry that is particularly enjoyable when read aloud. Some of the wordplay—especially the informal comments that accompany many of the poems—is effective beyond the perfunctory quatrain scheme. This collection is also visually entertaining due to Brown’s playful, full-page illustrations. The artwork allows us to fully appreciate the otherwise perplexing absurdity of Brown’s poetry. Young readers will enjoy this introduction to the playful side of the English language. June 2015 review by Lillian Curanzy.

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