Book review: A First Book of the Sea, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Davies, Nicola. A First Book of the Sea. Illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, 2018. $22.00. ISBN 9780763698829. 107 pgs. Ages 3-7. P8Q8

This is a wonderful book about the sea for young readers. It covers many sea related topics, which are broken up into four main categories- Down by the Shore, Journeys, Under the Sea, and Wonders. Several spreads deal with the terrible problem of plastic pollution and its effects. Some of the text rhymes and some does not, but all of it is poetic and lovely, and full of good information too. The watercolor artwork is beautiful- there is a lot of contrast, gorgeous color and rich detail. I loved the spread with the various types of ship sails and the border of sailor’s knots, all labeled.

VERDICT: I think all libraries in our area should have this book. Elementary schools will find it useful in the classroom, and parents will love reading it to their young children.

November 2018 review by Carol Schramm.


Book review: Friends and Foes: Poems about Us All, by Douglas Florian

Florian, Douglas. Friends and Foes: Poems about Us All. Beach Lane Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781442487956. 47 pages. Ages 4-10. P7 Q8

When you hear a poem is about friendship, the poem is usually positive and focus on the great things about friends. This collection of poems not only focuses on friends, but it also focuses on foes. There are twenty-five poems that range from “What friends are for” to “We used to be friends.” The poems are surrounded by childlike drawings using colored pencils and crayon, which add elements children can relate to. Some of the poems are sweet and can help children define what qualities friends have and others are a bit humorous about things that don’t make friendships successful. Some of the poems are deep and heartfelt. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the poems that were about foes, but once I read the whole book of poems, I feel that foe poems help complete the book. Since this book is a compilation of poems, it does not have to be read straight through. One can read the poems that speak to them and skip the ones that don’t.

Verdict: To define friendships, we need to talk about the positives aspects and also define what makes friendships not work. This poem book balances the two quite well. I highly recommend this book for libraries for elementary aged children.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs, by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins

Lewis, J. Patrick, and Jane Yolen. Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs. Illus. Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. Charlesbridge, 2017. 32 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-58089-706-8. Gr. 2+. P8 Q8

The demise of dinosaurs, some not very well known, are included in chronological order in this book of witty and laughable tributes to those long gone. Each epitaph gives clues to how each dinosaur died. The authors have also included some very basic facts, in italics on each dinosaur. The illustrations are brightly colored and are very humorous and fit the epitaphs well. Some of the poetry is rhyming and others just have a lot of word play.

Verdict: This introduces the dark humor of the epitaphs to young readers in much the same format as the authors’ earlier volume, Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. I loved everything about the book and I can’t wait to share it with my middle school age students. It will eventually be placed in an elementary school library.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Abrams, 2018. $16.99. 48p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2845-7. Ages 8-11. P6Q8

Holder of the Guinness Book of Records for compiling the most anthologies for children, poet and artist Hopkins has created the first book in a series of books in partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store for books covering biography, history, art concepts, and content from the museum’s exhibitions. These specially commissioned poems from 18 contemporary writers, primarily women, each connect to works varying from a pavement fragment created in the 1300s BC to a 2014 acrylic by Kerry James Marshall and taken from different cultures across the globe. One coincidence is the selection of Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair, also featured in Maryann MacDonald’s Rosa’s Animals. Each painting is fully credited, and the book concludes with short biographies of the artists and poets.

Verdict: The poems add to the artwork by drawing the eye to parts of the artwork that might be overlooked. The book will be valuable for both art and literature.

April/May 2014 review by Nel Ward.

[Editor’s note: from the publisher’s description–“The collection represents a wide range of poets and artists, including acclaimed children’s poets Marilyn Singer, Alma Flor Alda, and Carole Boston Weatherford and popular artists such as Mary Cassatt, Fernando Botero, Winslow Homer, and Utagawa Hiroshige.

Book review: Leaf Litter Critters, by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck

Bulion, Leslie. Leaf Litter Critters. Ill. by Robert Meganck. Peachtree, 2018. $14.95. 55p. ISBN 978-1-56145-950-6. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

In this small, easy-to-hold book, Bulion introduces the reader to creatures from beetles to bacteria that break down the duff—the decaying plant parts and animal wastes under new fallen leaves on top of the humus layer. Each two-page spread about a different “recycler” in the “brown food web” provides a whimsical poem, colorful drawings, and factual science notes.

Verdict: Highly colored illustrations are delightful, and verbal details are geared to the audience, for example comparing the size of some organisms to a comma or period. Readers can spend hours pouring over the details of the book.


May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

Latham, Irene, and Charles Waters. Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Carolrhoda Books, 2018. 39 pgs. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-0442-5. Ages 8 -12. P7 Q8

This collection of poems encapsulates the interactions that happen between a pair of middle schoolers – a white girl and a black boy. The freestyle poems capture a variety of moments from each child’s point of view, from attending church, to dealing with other students on the bus, to incidents on the news, and dinner with the family. The poems capture the complex feelings of the children, from wanting to fit in, to different ways our parents try to protect us, and forgiving our friends for their misunderstandings as we learn to navigate the issue of race.

This collection reads more as a series of single-page journal entries than as poetry, but the dichotomies that are introduced are important. The POV approach to discussing different experiences around similar topics works well to highlight how different people have different understandings around similar topics. The illustrations are simple and the text is the central focus on each page.

VERDICT: A strong choice for discussions about race in a way that allows for personal interpretation.

May 2018 review by Sudi Stodola.

Book review: Runny Babbit Returns, written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein

Silverstein, Shel. Runny Babbit Returns. HarperCollins, 2017. $19.99. ISBN 9780062479396. 89 pages. Ages 5-10.  P7 Q9

If you like tongue-twisting word play, you will enjoy Runny Babbit Returns, a collection of forty-one poems and drawings that were assembled from the completed but unpublished works in the Silverstein archive. Featuring Shel Silverstein’s style, this New York Times bestselling poetry book was awarded Amazon Best Book of 2017 and Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2017. This story is filled with spoonerism poems following Runny Babbit and some of his friends, Goctor Doose, Dungry Hog, and Skertie Gunk, as they have adventures. Some of the poems are simple to understand and others are a little more difficult. The illustrations are black and white with large characters. Children who have a good grasp of language will enjoy the challenge of figuring out the poems.

Verdict: I read this book to kindergarten, first and second grade students. The children who enjoyed the poems really liked them. The other children caught on as the children shouted out what the poem was supposed to say. The children’s eyes lit up when they were able to decipher what was trying to be said. Over half of the students in each class said they would check out the book to read with their families. This poetry book would be a good addition to any public and elementary school library. has an event kit which includes reproducible Storytime activities, exploring poetry, a decorative event poster and even Runny Babbit rabbit ears one can download that go along with this book.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.