cover image I GAVE MY MOM A CASTLE


Jean Little, , illus. by Kady MacDonald Denton. . Orca, $7.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-55143-253-3

Little loosely ties together the prose-poems in this perceptive collection with the theme "the art of giving"—not only physical gifts, but gifts of insight as well. The gently humorous, simply constructed verses in the often clipped delivery of a child's voice seem designed for ease of reading. The poems generally focus on an experience from which a child has learned something, conveyed in a conversational tone—as if six- to 10-year-olds were confiding stories at a pajama party. "My best friend ever since kindergarten/ is from Pakistan./ My second best friend just moved here/ from Hong Kong," says a narrator from Vancouver ("too boring") in the poem "Birth Places." "My big sister Barbara is bats about baseball," begins "Season Tickets," in which the younger sibling comes up with a clever way to give Barbara a stadium seat. "Our baby got all excited this morning./ 'Me got you a pwesent,' he said," starts a meditation on manners for a toddler's older sibling in "The First Dandelion." The author's earlier, brilliant poetry collection, Hey World, Here I Am! has the advantage of being delivered by one character, but Little's observations of young people and the topics that concern them— in dealing with grumpy aunts, while reading books or making friends—are as razor-sharp as ever. Denton's unobtrusive sketches, printed in alternately black or blue ink, limn deft characterizations whether of animals or human beings. Ages 9-up. (Feb.)