Imagination stretchers, likely to appeal most to introspective readers fond of finding unexpected pairings and connections.



Free-verse meditations, mostly on rural and country subjects, with atmospheric illustrations.

Mingling their unsigned entries, Kooser and Wanek use similar language and cadences to write of marshmallows on a blue plate (“They’re partly cloudy!”), a harpist on a stage playing “a great golden moth,” tadpoles as punctuation marks, a book as a sandwich with “a few words of mustard introducing / the chewy salami of history,” and like transformations of familiar, or at least recognizable, sights. The tone is generally solemn, though glints of humor shine through—“One summer day I was boiled and salted / like a peanut. I was the meat / in a heat sandwich, the dog in a hot”—and the sensibility is so attuned to outdoors and country experiences that the one real miss here is a wry remark about city people never getting to step in a cow pie. (No, in cities it’ll come from a dog.) In the accompanying paintings, Jones incorporates images from each poem into subdued landscapes or domestic settings…often to lovely effect, as in one scene of brown ponies amid birches on a snowy hillside and another of sinuous, nearly bare trees with intimately interwoven branches. A child on the cover has brown skin; the rest of the rare human figures either appear light-skinned or face away from the viewer.

Imagination stretchers, likely to appeal most to introspective readers fond of finding unexpected pairings and connections. (dual afterwords) (Illustrated poetry. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0303-5

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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This can’t be the last we ever hear of the Legendary Alston Boys of the purely surreal Logan County—imaginative,...


From the Legendary Alston Boys series , Vol. 1

Can this really be the first time readers meet the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County? Cousins and veteran sleuths Otto and Sheed Alston show us that we are the ones who are late to their greatness.

These two black boys are coming to terms with the end of their brave, heroic summer at Grandma’s, with a return to school just right around the corner. They’ve already got two keys to the city, but the rival Epic Ellisons—twin sisters Wiki and Leen—are steadily gaining celebrity across Logan County, Virginia, and have in hand their third key to the city. No way summer can end like this! These young people are powerful, courageous, experienced adventurers molded through their heroic commitment to discipline and deduction. They’ve got their shared, lifesaving maneuvers committed to memory (printed in a helpful appendix) and ready to save any day. Save the day they must, as a mysterious, bendy gentleman and an oversized, clingy platypus have been unleashed on the city of Fry, and all the residents and their belongings seem to be frozen in time and place. Will they be able to solve this one? With total mastery, Giles creates in Logan County an exuberant vortex of weirdness, where the commonplace sits cheek by jowl with the utterly fantastic, and populates it with memorable characters who more than live up to their setting.

This can’t be the last we ever hear of the Legendary Alston Boys of the purely surreal Logan County—imaginative, thrill-seeking readers, this is a series to look out for. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-46083-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A moving, well-written tale about an unusual friendship.


A middle-grade boy finds comfort and emotional growth in his friendship with an older woman in this novel.

Summer vacation isn’t starting out well for Russell, called Rusty. He failed fifth grade math and now has to go to summer school. His closest pal, Walter, is at sleepaway camp for six weeks. But worst of all, his mother is temporarily gone, being treated for depression; it’s unknown when she’ll return. Rusty takes his mind off things by fixing up an old catboat. One day, Hazel Perkins, an older woman in a wheelchair, asks him to take her sailing. Rusty puts her off but later agrees to earn money by doing chores at her house. They settle into a comforting routine, starting with a snack and math homework, then chores. Besides the money, Rusty appreciates Hazel’s agreeably cluttered house, her seaside paintings, and her friendly cat, Marigold. The day before his mother’s return, Rusty finally takes Hazel for a joyous sail. Though sorrow follows, Rusty gains a firmer sense of what’s important. In his third book for children, Loizeaux sensitively evokes his narrator’s pain and confusion as well as his insights. Rusty realizes he can repair his boat, “unlike some of the other things that I couldn’t do anything about.” Poetically striking details make scenes come alive, as with Hazel’s house, filled with “books, shells, pottery, dried seaweed, lacy snake skins…and an entire standing skeleton of what might have been a fox.” That Rusty allows himself to be changed by Hazel’s friendship and guidance speaks well of him in a subtle way, and it’s touching to see their mutual caring and compassion. Throughout, the author effectively employs maritime metaphors to tie everything together. Jacobsen’s lively, well-composed pencil illustrations nicely capture the book’s emotions.

A moving, well-written tale about an unusual friendship.

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-947159-42-6

Page Count: 186

Publisher: One Elm Books

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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