Like Hughes, Bryan, at 91, can also boast, “I’m still pulling.” (Picture book/poetry. 5-12)

SAIL AWAY

Hughes’ pen is paired to Bryan’s sculpting scissors, making a rich, poetic picture book indeed.

“Literature is a big sea full of many fish. I let down my nets and pulled. I’m still pulling.” Thus ends Langston Hughes’ autobiography, The Big Sea (1945), and here begins the subject of Bryan’s compilation. He chooses both familiar poems, such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and less-well-known ones, such as “Sailor,” to explore all things aquatic, both domestic and international. Reflecting Hughes’ adventures seeing the world via its waterways, the poems feature mermaids, waves, bridges, meeting merchants from all over, and more. Bryan’s intricate and colorful cut-paper collage illustrations breathe new life into the poems. The artist also pays homage to his mother, including photographs of her sewing and embroidering scissors on the endpapers—the same scissors he used to cut the images for these illustrations. Readers don’t have to have ever heard Bryan’s unforgettable, theatrical recitation of “My People” or other Hughes poems to understand the depth of the artist’s appreciation of and admiration for Hughes and his poetry: he opens the poems up visually here in the same way that he opens them auditorily when he performs them live.

Like Hughes, Bryan, at 91, can also boast, “I’m still pulling.” (Picture book/poetry. 5-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3085-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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Readers new to Gooseberry Park will hope they don’t have to wait another 20 years for the next book

GOOSEBERRY PARK AND THE MASTER PLAN

Twenty years after the publication of Gooseberry Park (1995), Rylant returns with a sequel.

In the previous outing, the residents of Gooseberry Park coped with an ice storm; now, a drought threatens Stumpy the squirrel and her family, along with all the other animals. This spurs house pets chocolate Lab Kona and hermit crab Gwendolyn to devise the titular master plan to help their friends through the ecological disaster. Herman the crow—so smart that the rest of the crows have given up the annual chess match because they got sick of losing to him—works out a flowchart that involves a cat, a possum, a raccoon, 200 owls, and 20 packs of chewing gum. Murray the bat’s motivational-speaker brother puts his well-developed jaw muscles to work on the gum; Kona’s chocolate-Lab sincerity wins the unprecedented cooperation of 200 owls. Rylant writes with her customary restrained humor, creating with apparently no effort a full cast of three-dimensional furred and feathered characters. The story comes with lessons ranging from the overuse of fossil fuels to the peculiar magic of friendship, all applied with a gentle hand and a spirit of generous trust in the abilities of her readers to understand them. Her frequent collaborator Howard supplies lumpily humorous grayscale illustrations that augment the character development and give readers’ eyes places to rest.

Readers new to Gooseberry Park will hope they don’t have to wait another 20 years for the next book . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0449-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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