MOON, HAVE YOU MET MY MOTHER?

Here are anthologized some 309 pages worth of poems from one of children’s literature’s most well-established poets. Arranged thematically, the collection moves chapter by chapter from consideration of dogs, cats, and other animals, to the seasons, to contemplation of the self, and finally to the moon of the title. Kuskin (The Animals and the Ark, 2002, etc.) has been recognized for her sense of rhythm and her ability to fine-tune a poem for the youngest audiences; indeed, many of these poems appeared in Harper’s “I Can Read” books for beginning readers. When she is at her best, she can form, very simply, an image that will allow a reader to see what is being described in new ways: “There is a bed / inside my head / and when the day is long / I curl within / my outside skin / and sing myself a song.” Unfortunately, the encyclopedic nature of this collection results in an inevitable feeling of sameness about many of these poems; the poet’s frequent habit of undercutting a poem in its coda—“Dear shell, / you curve extremely well / . . . / Dear shell, / you also smell”—repeated over and over loses its freshness and becomes nothing but a cute device. Despite the thematic arrangement, one gets the sense that many of these poems, which when originally published bore some relationship of form to one another (there are a great number of riddle-poems, for instance, here scattered among the others, as well as the very simple verses for beginning readers), were simply dumped in with little regard for how they relate to their neighbors in this new incarnation. Kuskin’s verse is best when presented intimately, to specific audiences; this mammoth collection makes what can be delightful in small servings cloying and tiresome when biggie-sized. Ruzzier’s (Don’t Know Much About Space, not reviewed, etc.) cartoons are fanciful but occasionally rather grotesque—they do not noticeably contribute to the success of the volume, but neither do they materially detract. For those who want it all in one place. (Poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-027173-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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DINOSAURS GALORE!

A dozen familiar dinosaurs introduce themselves in verse in this uninspired, if colorful, new animal gallery from the authors of Commotion in the Ocean (2000). Smiling, usually toothily, and sporting an array of diamonds, lightning bolts, spikes and tiger stripes, the garishly colored dinosaurs make an eye-catching show, but their comments seldom measure up to their appearance: “I’m a swimming reptile, / I dive down in the sea. / And when I spot a yummy squid, / I eat it up with glee!” (“Ichthyosaurus”) Next to the likes of Kevin Crotty’s Dinosongs (2000), illustrated by Kurt Vargo, or Jack Prelutsky’s classic Tyrannosaurus Was A Beast (1988), illustrated by Arnold Lobel, there’s not much here to roar about. (Picture book/poetry. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58925-044-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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