HARD-BOILED BUGS FOR BREAKFAST

AND OTHER TASTY POEMS

What do pandas who make stir-fry, a bike with no pedals, New Year’s resolutions, and perturbed vegetables have in common?

Not much, but they sure are a hoot! This poetry collection covers topics that include food (some edible, some not), various holidays, and animals—some that are real, like “merciless ants,” many imaginary, such as the “fnatt,” and a few inventive combinations, like the “kangarooster” or the “shrimpala.” There are also healthy doses of innocuous schoolwork avoidance and general silliness. With steady rhymes and consistent meter, Prelutsky employs his characteristic wordplay, humor, and absurdism. One poem, titled “If You Saw Yourself,” inverts expectations by finishing the sentiment with “in half.” Another, speaking of the seasons, notes how the leaves fall every year, like “it’s sort of autumn-atic.” Peppered about are some shaped poems and the occasional poignant message, addressing self-identity or the values of a simple life. Chan’s grayscale cartoons are a potent contribution, as they visually add wry amusement and often enhance the poems’ textual meanings. As a whole, they work together exceedingly well. A neon sign makes a “light” meal…for a dinosaur, while a constant sleeper is…a cat. There is some variety in shading, but most illustrated human characters are White-presenting.

A quick-witted delight. (Poetry. 6-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-301913-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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

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THE CROSSOVER

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.

LAND OF THE CRANES

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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