Rhyme Time

Fans of James Stevenson's Popcorn and Just Around the Corner will find much to feast upon in Corn-Fed, the latest installment in his breezy series of illustrated poetry. Stevenson turns everyday observances into insightful kernels of truth: "Once a bike has discovered/ What it's like/ To run fast and free,/ It just might try to escape," he writes alongside pen-and-ink and watercolor wash vignettes of locked-up bicycles. (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.95 48p ages 8-up ISBN 0-06-000597-1; Mar.)

A big dog comes to visit in Little Dog and Duncan by Kristine O'Connell George, illus. by June Otani. This companion volume to Little Dog Poems chronicles what happens when the titular pups share quarters, with poems like "Mud," "Homesick" and "No Fair!" Otani's bare bones watercolors portray the girl narrator and the goings-on about the house. (Clarion, $12 40p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-618-11758-X; Apr.)

Gary Soto explores a friendship forged at birth and the adolescent growing pains of two middle school boys in Body Parts in Rebellion: Hanging Out with Fernie and Me, illus. by Regan Dunnick. From sports tryouts to teacher trouble to memories of long ago, the more than 40 poems deliver a thoughtful perspective on universal themes. (Putnam, $14.99 80p ages 10-up ISBN 0-399-23615-5; Mar.)

Gary Soto weighs in for another poetry anthology, Wáchale! Poetry and Prose About Growing Up Latino in America, along with Pat Mora, Michelle Serros and others, edited by Ilan Stavans. The title—"Spanglish for... watch out"—says it all: this wide-ranging collection seeks to inspire the next generation of Latino writers. Brief biographical sketches introduce each effort; many are accompanied by a Spanish translation, including "Deportee," written by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman, also known as "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos." (Cricket/Marcato, $16.95 160p ages 11-14 ISBN 0-8126-4750-5; Jan.)

With poems like "My Feet Stink. Does Your Nose Smell?" and "Ode to Spaghetti" James Proimos captures the kid's perspective in If I Were in Charge the Rules Would Be Different! Proimos's humorous b&w drawings (such as one of a boy bowing to a bowl of spaghetti with an "I'm not worthy" thought bubble above his head) make good, silly company. (Scholastic, $16.95 80p ages 5-up ISBN 0-439-20864-5; Mar.)

X.J. Kennedy offers a plethora of poetry—and tickles the funny bone—in Exploding Gravy: Poems to Make You Laugh, illus. by Joy Allen. Some of the poems have been published in previous anthologies, but the poet's fans will welcome this extensive round-up of his work. With themes like "Far-Out Families," "Giants and Dinosaurs" and "Peculiar Characters," Kennedy has kids covered. Allen's playful drawings strike just the right note. (Little, Brown, $16.95 128p ages 8-10 ISBN 0-316-38423-2; Apr.)

Originally issued in Great Britain in 1986 under a different title, The Kingfisher Book of Funny Poems, edited by Roger McGough, illus. by Caroline Holden, now appears stateside. The hefty volume contains more than 200 poems, the largest number from McGough himself, and dominated mostly by men, such as Spike Milligan, Ogden Nash, Douglas Florian and Jack Prelutsky. (Kingfisher, $18.95 256p ages 7-up ISBN 0-7534-5480-7; Apr.)

Richard Doyle's (1824—1883) fairy-infused chromolithographs first greeted viewers in the 1870 edition of In Fairyland: A Series of Pictures from the Elf World. Now, Fairyland in Art and Poetry: From the Metropolitan Museum of Art pairs Doyle's popular artwork with poetry by the likes of William Shakespeare, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Eleanor Farjeon and Langston Hughes in a handsome keepsake edition. (Holt, $17.95 48p ages 8-up ISBN 0-8050-7006-0; Apr.)

Edward Lear (1812—1888), ed. by Edward Mendelson, illus. by Laura Huliska-Beit, joins the well-conceived Poetry for Young People series. Misunderstood by his peers and plagued by loneliness and low self-esteem, the 19th-century wordsmith and painter spent much of his time in the company of children, composing poems and songs for their amusement. Mendelson here compiles 35 of the author's efforts, introduced by comments that place each in the context of his oeuvre ("Many of Lear's poems are about people who become happy by doing what they think they should do, not what other people think they should do"). Definitions of unfamiliar words and the poet's signature nonsense phrases (such as the Owl and Pussy-Cat's "runcible spoon") follow; Huliska-Beit's swirling spreads and vignettes play up the eccentric scenarios. (Sterling, $14.95 48p ages 8-up ISBN 0-8069-3077-2; Jan.)

"Sometimes I'm in the mood/ for mud/ When my toes have tasted/ too many sidewalks/ …/ In the park/ or by the river/ I choose/ ooze," writes Marilyn Singer in "Mud," one of several environmentally-themed offerings in Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth. Meilo So's illustrations, rendered in India ink on rice paper, evoke the serene quality of Japanese silkscreen. (Knopf, $14.95 48p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-375-81094-3; Apr.)

From barn-swallows to mockingbirds, and eggs to baby birds, Kate Kiesler's outstanding oils add graceful complement to the poetry of Margaret Wise Brown, Carl Sandburg, Elizabeth Coatsworth and others in Wings on the Wind: Bird Poems, a companion volume to Fishing for a Dream: Ocean Lullabies and Night Verses. (Clarion, $14 40p ages 4-7 ISBN 0-618-13333-X; Mar.)

Jane Yolen offers 14 odes to birds in Wild Wings: Poems for Young People, photographed by her son, Jason Stemple, the team behind Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People. In a pattern repeated throughout the volume, the opening spread pictures an elegant white egret against a background of slate-gray water and patchy foam. "A cloud of feathers/ above the feathered pond/ an eye that does not see/ beyond/ the fish at its feet/ the food in its beak/ the fear in its throat/ the man in the boat." A caption provides the bird's scientific name and an explanation of the egret's appeal to plume hunters. (Boyds Mills, $17.95 32p ages 10-12 ISBN 1-56397-904-7; Apr.)

Grandma and Grandpa get in on the act in A Grand Celebration: Grandparents in Poetry, ed. by Carol G. Hittleman and Daniel R. Hittleman, illus. by Kay Life. Thoughtful quotes are sprinkled alongside the 26 poems by Lucille Clifton, Donald Graves, Myra Cohn Livingston and others. Despite what the cover might indicate, the interior illustrations reflect ethnic diversity. (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 32p ages 4-up ISBN 1-56397-901-2; Apr.)

Whisper and Shout: Poems to Memorize, ed. by Patrice Vecchione, offers up more than 50 poems for kids to commit to memory, from Gwendolyn Brooks's opening call to action, "Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward" to e.e. cummings's alliterative "maggie and milly and molly and may" to Langston Hughes and Shakespeare. The volume concludes with brief biographies and a suggested reading list for each poet. (Cricket, $16.95 144p ages 9-12 ISBN 0-8126-2656-7; Apr.)

Throw out the formidable rhythm and rhyme schemes: Ralph Fletcher's Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out laughs in the face of formality. Organized into two sections—"Lighting the Spark" and "Nurturing the Flame"—and peppered with interviews with published poets, Fletcher's accessible volume teaches kids to write poetry from the heart. (HarperCollins, $4.95 paper 128p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-380-79703-8; Mar.)

"Love words/ play with them/ find the meanings of those you don't know," writes poet Michael Dugan. He, along with 32 other poets including Ralph Fletcher, Douglas Florian, Naomi Shihab Nye and Jane Yolen offer words of encouragement and a few poems of their own in Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets, ed. by Paul B. Janeczko. "Notes on Contributors" complete the handsome volume. (Candlewick, $17.99 144p ages 9-13 ISBN 0-7636-0881-5; Apr.)

Using over 30 of her own poems as a guide, Sara Holbrook teaches readers how to present poetry with rhythm, movement and a strong voice in Wham! It's a Poetry Jam: Discovering Performance Poetry, with a foreword by Jane Yolen. Much of her advice is geared to teachers; guidelines and advice for organizing a poetry "wham" appear midway. (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $14.95 64p ages 8-14 ISBN 1-56397-998-5; Apr.)

New Nonfiction

With brief, accessible text, engaging topics and a perforated page of collectible cards Seymour Simon's See More Reader series will rope in even the most reluctant readers. According to Danger! Earthquake, "most of the world's earthquakes happen in a zone called the Pacific Ring of Fire." A map of the world highlights the hot spots. Bulldozers, dump trucks and offshore oil rigs get their due in Giant Machines. Additional offerings include Wild Bears; Killer Whales; and Planets Around the Sun. (North-South/ SeaStar, $13.95 each 32p ages 5-9 ISBN 1-58717-139-2; -126-0; -143-0; 141-4; -145-7; $3.95 each paper -140-6; -127-9; -144-9; -142-2; -146-5; Apr.)

In Seymour Simon's Book of Trains, the author dedicates one spread each to various kinds of trains, with a full-color photograph on one side and, opposite, a couple of paragraphs describing it. He covers everything from old-fashioned diesel trains to subways that run on electricity to France's TGV (with speeds of between 200-300 mph). A series of spreads on the freight train details different kinds of cars. (HarperCollins, $16.95 40p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-06-028475-7; Mar.)

A book, CD-ROM and Web site, Childrensatlas.com, created by act-two, takes readers on an international adventure. Maps of 15 world regions provide information about people, places and products; a "FactFile" highlighted box sheds light on three of the icons that appear on each map, while the "Fact Finder," also a highlighted box, helps children locate important places on the map's grid. (Two-Can, $24.95 48p ages 8-11 ISBN 1-58728-403-0; Feb.)

Curious kids can tote The Dorling Kindersley Big Book of Knowledge in a backpack. Bursting with over 2,000 photographs, the fact-filled, meaty paperback contains information about "Earth and Space" and "The Natural World"; "Our World" focuses on culture while "Science and Technology" explains such things as electricity and passenger planes. (DK, $17.95 paper 480p ages 8-up ISBN 0-7894-8501-X; Feb.)

From how to filter water laced with gravel, sand and charcoal to Einstein's theory of relativity, young scientists will find all they need to know in The Way Science Works: Discover the Secrets of Science with Exciting, Accessible Experiments by Robin Kerrod and Sharon Ann Holgate. Eight well-organized sections brim with information, color photographs and fun experiments like how to make a polymer slime and an electromagnet out of a screwdriver, battery and copper wire; easy-to-read icons designate whether kids can do them alone or with an adult. A few should only be demonstrated in a lab. Brief sidebars introduce important scientists and explain how their work shaped history. (DK, $24.95 160p ages 10-up ISBN 0-7894-8562-1; Apr.)

Those with a sweet tooth will savor Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest by Robert Burleigh. The volume traces the history of the confection from its origins in the rainforest to its role as an Aztec offering to the god Quetzalcoatl to its ration to soldiers during WWI to mass market treat. The book will accompany an exhibition at Chicago's Field Museum. Mouth-watering full-color photographs, a glossary and an author's note addressing deforestation and labor violations associated with the production of chocolate make this a handsome resource. (Abrams, $16.95 40p ages 6-10 ISBN 0-8109-5734-5; Mar.)