Safe, mostly conservative choices in an expansive gathering, with dazzling visuals.



Some 200-plus short poems about U.S. places, people, and events are superimposed on big, bright landscape and other photographs.

Notwithstanding Lewis’ grandiose claim that these “chiseled words and fabulous photos” present “the underside, backside, inside, and other side of America,” the general tone is blandly celebratory, with only occasional, mild dissension. Robert Frost’s paternalistic “The Gift Outright” (“The land was ours before we were the land’s”) is paired, for instance with Carole Boston Weatherford’s protest litany “Power to the People” (“You Are On Stolen Land”); and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” appears, rather obviously, side by side with Langston Hughes’ “I, too, sing America.” The poetry largely steers clear of abstractions, violent imagery, or even, aside from a strongly rhythmic final chant by Leigh Lewis, declamatory slam or hip-hop language. Topics range from natural wonders to local festivals, regional food, salutes to celebrities including John Wayne and Willie Nelson, elegies for Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, sports, religious observances, and statements of ethnic or national identity. Nods to the diversity of American voices include frequent entries by immigrant and minority writers as well as poems in Spanish, Arabic, and Korean with accompanying translations into English by, usually, the poets themselves. The photos, gorgeous as they are, largely serve a decorative function as only a handful bear identifying captions.

Safe, mostly conservative choices in an expansive gathering, with dazzling visuals. (bibliography, indexes) (Poetry. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3185-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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“He called on me. / My answer’s wrong. / Caught like a squirrel / on an open lawn. / Standing alone, / twiddling my paws, / frozen in place, / working my jaws. / I’d like to bolt, / but where? / I moan. / Could anyone / be more / alone?” Poet, educator and storyteller Holbrook returns with a collection of 41 poems about school worries and classroom problems. Here readers find substitutes and pop quizzes, bullies and homework storms. Nearly half of the poems have appeared in previous collections, but here the white space around each poem is filled with poetry facts, definitions and challenges to get young poets writing. Some entries are more successful than others; a few have odd rhymes, others a jangle in the rhythm. The title, too, is quite misleading: There is only one zombie poem. However, the subjects will resonate, and the hints and tips will excite young writers whether they currently love poetry or not. Sandstrom’s serviceable pen, ink and faded watercolor spot illustrations are as hit-and-miss as the poems. This is good classroom poetry, though, if not verse for the ages. (Poetry. 9-11)



Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59078-820-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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Nye at her engaging, insightful best.



Nye explores what we throw away, literally (she’s a litter picker-upper) and metaphorically.

In 80-plus poems, Nye writes conversationally, injecting humor, outrage, and reminiscence. Unambiguously championing the environment, she marvels at how casually humans toss trash. “What about these energy bottles pitched by someone / who didn’t have energy to find a bin? / Fun Finger Food wrappers dropped by someone / not so fun?” An archaeologist of urban detritus, she ponders her discoveries, championing children throughout. “Blocks around elementary schools / are surprisingly free of litter. / Good custodians?” Nye locates the profound in the mundane: “A single silver star / on a curb by Bonham Elementary / Good work! / Glimmering / like a treasure / stronger at this moment than all 50 / drooping on the flagpole.” She mourns the current othering of the homeless and refugees: “A few hundred miles from here / thousands of traumatized kids / huddle in cages / … / Who can believe this? / Land of the Free!” She keenly knits place into poems: her city, San Antonio; the Ferguson, Missouri, of her childhood; Maui; Hong Kong. She castigates Trump, who “talks uglier than the bully in grade school,” and Prince Charles, who dithers ineffectually about plastic waste. She generously praises poets and writers: W.S. Merwin, who drafted poems on junk mail; David Ignatow, for a poetic image that Nye has found compelling since high school; Kevin Henkes, for his book Egg.

Nye at her engaging, insightful best. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-290769-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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