POEMS FROM WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG

Having put her own spin on traditional nursery rhymes in My Very First Mother Goose (1986) and Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), both edited by Iona Opie, Wells now interprets some of Milne’s children’s verse.

Where the original title had 44 poems, some confined to a page and others extending to a handful, with Ernest Shepard’s illustrations acting mostly as decoration, Wells here presents 13, many sprawling over several pages and accompanied by bright, busy illustrations that turn each one into a narrative. When James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree’s mother goes “down to the edge of the town” without him in “Disobedience,” she hops into a black London cab driven by a rabbit, stops to make a call from a red phone box, and comes home in a different cab (driven by a cat) with a white terrier puppy for her son. Meanwhile, wee James telephones some nine people, including the royal family, with Wells’ interpolated dialogue presented in speech balloons. There’s so much side business the propulsive silliness of the original rhyme gets lost. Shorter poems, such as “Independence” and “Happiness” (both of which involve independent-thinking cat children), fare better, and sequential illustrations for “The King’s Breakfast” work well to convey the many back-and-forths endured by the Dairymaid. Most humans present White, though there are characters of color (including, a bit oddly, Christopher Robin).

A bright grab bag. (glossary) (Poetry. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-01653-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Hard-to-find numbers make this counting book one to skip.

NUMBERS EVERYWHERE

Four-line poems introduce the numbers zero to nine opposite stylized, colorful mixed-media illustrations that incorporate them.

The relevant numeral is printed clearly over each poem and worked into the pictures, with dotted blue lines to help readers find them. This device sometimes works against itself. For example, the poem headed “3” reads: “Curve out and back in— / Do it once, then repeat: / A three is red pepper / On pizza. Let’s eat!” The poem is inviting, but the red pepper 3’s on the pizza slices opposite are obscured by the dotted blue lines superimposed on them. There are also three people to count and three tuning pegs on the banjo one kid plays. Those elements of the illustration are clear enough, but locating the numeral can be hard. Most pictures share this difficulty, although some, like the two balls of the snowman representing 8, are easier to spot. (Eight children play around the snowman, and there are eight pieces of coal marking its features.) The pictures include people with varying skin tones. In acknowledgment of the difficulty of the concept, a concluding double-page spread with number shapes incorporated into the composition is followed by an identical spread with the number shapes circled for readers to confirm their guesses. The rear endpapers offer each numeral with a corresponding number of thumbnails from the appropriate earlier spread for extra practice.

Hard-to-find numbers make this counting book one to skip. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4321-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Lively affirmation for budding entomologists.

HUSTLE BUSTLE BUGS

Rhyming couplets meet larger-than-life creatures that are loosely considered bugs.

Technically, bugs comprise only a part of the insect family, but this text is more rudimentary than some of its contemporaries. The opening couplet sets the tone for rather banal text that sometimes struggles to achieve a fluid rhythm: “Secret cities buzz and bustle / with itty-bitty hard-work hustle.” (The book’s final verse, in particular, requires rehearsal for those planning to read it aloud.) Still, the large font and sparse print may encourage emergent readers to take on some new sight words, such as mandibles. Additional, smaller-font prose, which appears on most pages, links human and bug activities—as in, carpenter ants rebuilding forests by breaking down old timber and builders clearing a construction site. The colorful, dioramalike art is reminiscent of animated films of the late 1990s from the likes of Pixar or DreamWorks. Squeamish readers will not overcome entomophobia, but those already fascinated will enjoy the ride. How could a bug lover not appreciate two dung beetles who seem to be conversing across their ball of poop? Beyond its three-dimensional flora and fauna, the art includes two wide-eyed, observant girls, both brown-skinned. The backmatter offers more information in prose: specific ways that bugs fit into the web of life; a page with random data-driven facts; and a surprisingly detailed and interesting explanation of how the artist created the illustrations.

Lively affirmation for budding entomologists. (Informational picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5740-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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