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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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An edge-of-your-seat read.

THE CANYON'S EDGE

A girl’s birthdays mark parallel tragedies for her broken family unit.

Last year’s celebration at a restaurant ended in an unexplained public shooting, and Nora’s mother died. She and her father are still wrestling with their trauma, Nora with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD. For this year’s outing, Nora and her father head into the deserts of the Southwest on a rock-climbing expedition. They descend into a 40-foot deep slot canyon, then hike along inside until a flash flood barrels through the canyon, washing away all their supplies…and Nora’s father. She’s left to survive this symbolic and living nightmare on her own. Thankfully, she can make continuous use of her parents’ thorough training in desert knowledge. Brief sections of prose bracket the meat of the story, which is in verse, a choice highly effective in setting tone and emotional resonance for the heightened situation. Bowling’s poems run a gamut of forms, transforming the literal shape of the text just as the canyon walls surrounding Nora shape her trek. The voice of Nora’s therapist breaks through occasionally, providing a counterpoint perspective. Nora is White while two characters seen in memories have brown skin. The narrative also names local Native peoples. Elements of the survival story and psychological thriller combine with strong symbolism to weave a winding, focused, stunning narrative ultimately about the search for healing.

An edge-of-your-seat read. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49469-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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