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Poetry for Kids: Robert Frost

Edited by Jay Parini, illus. by Michael Paraskevas. MoonDance, $14.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-63322-220-5

This lushly illustrated addition to the Poetry for Kids series highlights Robert Frost, beginning with a thoughtful introduction to his life and work. The 35 poems include “The Road Not Taken,” “Mending Wall,” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” among other sharply observant, often lonely works. Paraskevas’s atmospheric paintings evoke themes of seasons, nature, selfhood, and change. With deceptively simple imagery, Frost’s work is accessible to younger readers, and potentially unfamiliar words are concisely defined throughout. A closing guide briefly explores the question of “What Robert Was Thinking” in each poem, inviting readers to explore their complexity: of “After Apple-Picking,” Parini writes, “This is a poem about the end of a day, weariness itself, and even the end of a life.” Ages 8–13. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea

Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Bob Hansman and Jovan Hansman. Seagrass, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-63322-276-2

Hopkins compiles 14 previously unpublished poems connected to major sea voyages in this arresting collection, which features Margarita Engle, Paul B. Janeczko, J. Patrick Lewis, G. Neri, Jane Yolen, and others. Stretching from the 15th century to the present day, the poems reflect on sea voyages that include Columbus’s trek west, the travels of the Mayflower and Titanic, the slave trade (“I was hiding in the bush when Papa got killed,” begins Marilyn Nelson’s “Kidnapped by Aliens”), and the desperate journeys of contemporary refugees. “They are the bravest people on earth right now,/ don’t dare look down on them,” writes Naomi Shihab Nye. The Hansmans—a father-son illustrator team—blend archival images into their dramatic mixed-media collages, and endnotes provide historical background on each voyage. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana

Francisco X. Alarcón, illus. by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Children’s Book Press, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-89239-275-9

This poetry collection from Chicano poet Alarcón, who died in 2016, includes three or four poems for each day of the week, written in the voice of a boy who reflects on traditions, special gatherings, and time spent with family. An opening note and several verses highlight the mythological origins behind the naming of the days (“Venus and Frigg/ make every Friday/ a Valentine’s Day”). The contemplative poems touch on recognizable events in children’s lives (irritating Monday mornings, endless Wednesdays) and moments of joy and melancholy: “maybe there is another kid/ looking right now at Mars/ up in the night sky/ feeling just as I do—/ like a tiny punctuation dot/ alone amid so much dark.” Gonzalez’s radiant illustrations (inspired by Mexican indigenous crafts, she notes) bring a sense of cosmic oneness to the pages, connecting the boy to his family, community, and the ever-spinning planet. Ages 7–12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Child’s Book of Prayers and Blessings: From Faiths and Cultures Around the World

Deloris Jordan, illus. by Shadra Strickland. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9550-0

Jordan presents an interfaith compilation of poems, prayers, and songs that includes familiar offerings such as “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore,” as well as Tibetan Buddhist and Old Testament blessings, an Islamic prayer, and a Navajo song. Many of the 20+ entries are of unknown origin, and an afterword provides a handful of details about them. Colored in a creamy, restful palette, Strickland’s linoleum prints are loosely structured over an unfolding day, featuring children around the world heading into church, clasping hands while singing, and enjoying moments of quiet solitude. It’s an eclectic and varied look at the way communities and cultures express praise, gratitude, and blessing. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Alphamals A–Z

Graham Carter. Big Picture, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9557-6

In this animal-themed alphabet book, gentle verselike text highlights 26 creatures. Carter vividly describes aspects of their distinctive behaviors or characteristics: “Floating in blue lagoon waters,/ a manatee drifts with the currents,/ a gentle sea cow, chewing grass.” A jaguar “lies stretched out, waiting,/ high above the forest floor,/ her spots concealed among the leaves./ She leaps down quickly, strong and deadly,/ catching prey with one sharp bite.” Carter’s stylized digital compositions have the impact of posters, incorporating bold colors and geometric angles and shapes: the markings on a semicircular protractor bring texture to a swan’s folded wing, precise snowflake patterns adorn the fur of an Arctic fox, and origami-style folds make the aforementioned jaguar look ready to pounce. A strikingly illustrated alphabetical introduction to dozens of animals. Ages 2–5. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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I Love You: A Pop-up Book

David A. Carter. Abrams Appleseed, $14.95 (14p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2734-4

Carter pairs abstracted and at times almost architectural pop-ups with a love poem stocked with metaphors. “You are a gentle wave and... I love you,” he writes, as thin strips of white paper fan out across a neon green spread in a way that conjures the image of a Calatrava bridge. Throughout, the “I” in “I love you” is represented by an icon of a human eye (why isn’t entirely clear), and readers can look for another readily recognizable symbol: a red heart, hidden amid pop-ups that evoke tree branches and mobiles, and sometimes make noise (“You are the rhythm of my soul and... I love you”). It’s a fittingly abstract take on a concept that can be hard to define. Ages 5–8. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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With Love, from Me to You

Mary Manz Simon, illus. by Corinna Ice. Zonderkidz, $8.99 (14p) ISBN 978-0-310-75815-0

Valentine’s Day cards and other gifts can communicate one’s affection, but Simon reminds readers that actions speak louder than words: “For love is more than flowers,/ although they smell so sweet./ And love is more than candy,/ although that is a treat.” Delivered in singsong verse, her suggestions of how to show love include extending kindness to the shy or sad, as well as reminding others that, “God loves you.” Though this board book’s title may call to mind the Beatles, Simon’s message and Ice’s cheerful illustrations, in which a locomotive picks up animal passengers as it speeds through a forest, suggest another famous lyric: “Join the love train.” Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agency: Illustration Ltd. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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I Love My Texas Valentine

Marianne Richmond, illus. by Amy Cartwright. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99 (20p) ISBN 978-1-4926-5981-5

This Texas-themed padded board book, one of 26 state-specific versions publishing simultaneously, sprinkles references to the Lone Star State throughout a simple love poem. Unfortunately, the all-caps emphasis on Texan words and phrases only exacerbates the fill-in-the-blank nature of the rhymes, whose meter is rough at best (“I love you as gigantic as the Dallas Zoo lion’s roar,/ and as deep as the Gulf of Mexico, I love you much more”). Cartwright’s digital illustrations are bright and sunny, but they, too, never escape an Anywhere, U.S.A., vibe that’s at odds with the book’s supposed regional focus. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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How Do You Say I Love You?

Hannah Eliot, illus. by Shirley Ng-Benitez. Little Simon, $7.99 (26p) ISBN 978-1-5344-0012-2

Children who already know how to say “I love you” in English can learn how to do so in 10 additional languages in a rhyming board book that zips around the world over the course of a day. Phonetic pronunciations help readers sound out each phrase, and the Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian entries appear in both transliterated versions in Roman letters and in their corresponding scripts and/or characters. Ng-Benitez helps children get a general sense of settings that include Brazil, France, Italy, and Spain in loosely sketched cartoons featuring warm parent-child moments and other expressions of love. Ages 2–4. Agent: Nicole Tugeau, T2 Children’s Illustrators. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Sweet Hearts

Amy E. Sklansky, illus. by Anna Dunn. Cartwheel, $8.99 (14p) ISBN 978-1-338-11099-9

Readers turn graduated pages, die-cut in the shape of ever-larger hearts, as they make their way through this sunny celebration of love. Sklansky’s well-constructed rhymes talk about love in vague but approachable language: “Love is a gift tied up with a bow/ Love will follow wherever you go.” The bright colors and flat, geometric shapes of Dunn’s illustrations give her characters the look of wooden toys as they demonstrate what love in action can look like, such as giving a gift to a friend or being kind to animals. Up to age 3. Author’s agency: Studio Goodwin Sturges. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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