cover image A NEST FULL OF STARS


James Berry, , illus. by Ashley Bryan. . Greenwillow/Amistad, $15.99 (104pp) ISBN 978-0-06-052747-1

Jamaican-born poet Berry (When I Dance ) celebrates his Caribbean heritage in this patchy collection of poems about childhood. Loosely organized around such topics as "Everyday Feelings" and "Together," Berry's best poems echo the rhythmic language of a Caribbean playground and invite readers to explore the natural world. Some poems, like the lengthy "Gobble-Gobble Rap," seem especially sure-footed and filled with infectious cadences and phrases: "Me do a whispa and a big shout/ with a meat-and-a-sweet mouth/ like a nonmeat, nonfish, puddn mouth/ which is—a sleeper-waker, want-it-want-it mouth," it begins. Elsewhere, Berry's detailed descriptions of a seashell, of the "estate cowman" and of his Caribbean grandfather precisely and richly evoke their subjects. Many entries, however, seem pedestrian: "I love it when we play/ cricket or football/ or sit and watch a game on TV." Bryan (Beautiful Blackbird ) contributes crisp black-and-white illustrations that resemble woodcuts. Large pictures introduce each section, while smaller images and designs accent some individual poems, creating a visual rhythm. Ages 7-up. (Mar.)