I must admit that when I picked up this clever book, all I could hear in my mind was the 1980 Squeeze song "Pulling Mussels From the Shell." That woul...moreI must admit that when I picked up this clever book, all I could hear in my mind was the 1980 Squeeze song "Pulling Mussels From the Shell." That would be one messed-up book: 80's pop songs reworded for Halloween. But sort of appropriate. Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs always looked kind of undead to begin with.
But the book. It's cute! Kids who love monsters will love it! Kids who love messing with song lyrics (and what kid doesn't, I ask you? Can anyone think of "Kawasaki lets the good times roll" without also hearing the filthy version too?) will love it. Fans of grody illustration will love it, and that includes all those grown boys who read the really gross graphic novels.
Dads who cannot keep themselves from singing in the car (that's you, baby, and also that's John The Boss, who laughed out loud when he read this book) will be pre-empted by their children whenever they start in with "Skinnamarink" (which we already have our own filthy version of) or "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall". Ha ha ha ha! We're driving 2600 miles in the next 3 weeks! I'm a little hysterical already!(less)
There's nothing like starting out on a strong, affirming foot. Let's just put it out there, son - I am a good looking guy. And things are just going t...moreThere's nothing like starting out on a strong, affirming foot. Let's just put it out there, son - I am a good looking guy. And things are just going to get better from there. My sister comes along and tells me I am a brother. My teacher calls me a writer. I look in the mirror and call myself a talker. Fist bumps all around.
This big bold boy-centric anthem is illustrated with strong, bright-colored collage images - wild animals, city buildings, and images from non-Western culture underlay graphic silhouettes of young men in motion, implying the threads of civilized and wild culture that weave together to make a boy. Extra fist bump to my boy Christopher for using a picture of the gorilla diorama at the American Museum of Natural History. That silverback gets around.
This is exactly the read-aloud for the strongest, most confident read-aloud-er you know. My friend Kate, for example. You need the rhythm and flow of a Nikki Giovanni or a Jacqueline Woodson to read this book aloud. But you need nothing but fifteen minutes and an open mind to read it to yourself.
One cautious note: I held out my fist for a bump with a little boy not too long ago, and, not hip to the procedure, the kid hauled off and punched my fist as hard as he could. Didn't hurt me much, but ne nearly broke his fingers on my rings. So, if you're going to do the fist bumps along with Walter Dean and Christopher, make sure everybody knows - a real man is gentle.
...even when the words grace me with their presence, they don't always choose to step delicately into th...moreYes poetry. I don't like poetry but yes to this:
...even when the words grace me with their presence, they don't always choose to step delicately into the world, pink shoes treading softly over the white horizon. usually poetry slops lazily over the couch of a page and dangles while I remove its muddy shoes and rearrange the pillows, all the while muttering something about Frost and how maybe his comments against free verse were right all along (poetry in rhyme always cleans up after itself) although honestly, you haven't lived until the homeless free-verse poem on your couch decides to stay for a cup of tea and, if you're lucky, lets you take notes on everything he says.
from "invitation" by Mackenzie Connellee, in Time You Let Me In
There's a sh!t-ton more of that where this comes from - meditations on the last photons from a dying star, the burning feeling of hiding and making out, joyrides and wine coolers, fitting in, learning, rebelling, parents, grandparents, and oh my god breathless love.
Here's another little bit:
as far back as I can remember we've been pissed off, the whole bloodline, just really pissed.
from "as far back as I can remember" by Jonah Ogles, in Time You Let Me In
If you could say "Good job!" in that delighted voice with that big smile you give a two-year-old who drew you a picture to a teenage or just-past-teenage poet (which you can't, not unless you want to hideously damage him or her), I would say "Good job!" to Lauren Eriks, who wrote:
I have bed knobs in my hands, portals, doorways. I can leap over buildings, baby, bouncing through walls. I'm free as a racing rubber ball. When I get lit on the trail of your Camel cigarette, you know I can break every bottle, butt, bombshell around.
from "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by Lauren Eriks, in Time You Let Me In.(less)
There is no reason any school or public library should be without this book. Yeah, I said it. The illustrations are of the highest quality, the select...moreThere is no reason any school or public library should be without this book. Yeah, I said it. The illustrations are of the highest quality, the selected nursery rhymes - some new, some traditional - are interesting and unusual and trip off the tongue in both languages. A treasure. And I'm going to say the same thing about Once Upon a Time / Habia una vez by Rueben Martinez, illustrated by Raul Colon. My hat is off to Harper Collins for putting this kind of investment into bilingual picture books this year.(less)
Not a dog person, not a poetry person. And yet... if a puppy could tell you what he is thinking, I think it would have to come out as poetry, little f...moreNot a dog person, not a poetry person. And yet... if a puppy could tell you what he is thinking, I think it would have to come out as poetry, little fragmenty thoughts full of nouns - sweater, vacuum cleaner, food, paws - and wriggly verbs. Katy Schneider's paintings that accompany the poems are marvelous. Brushy and painterly, expressive and muscular. That puppy on the cover staring up at you - gosh, even an old sourpuss like me can't resist that pup!(less)
This verse story, told from the point of view of a ten-year-old Vietnamese girl who flees Saigon with her family in 1975, is both readable and histori...moreThis verse story, told from the point of view of a ten-year-old Vietnamese girl who flees Saigon with her family in 1975, is both readable and historically significant. It can be hard not to feel like verse stories are somehow cheating, especially when the poems do not follow strict poetic forms. In addition, kids see all that white space on the page and they know the book will take no time at all to read. However. The simple forms here, the descriptions that swerve between straightforward and elliptical, keep the story sketchlike, allowing it a timeless relevance. Even though Ha (and Lai) is my age and fleeing Vietnam, her story of assimilation will apply to kids coming from Eritrea, Afghanistan or Bhutan. When I was in 4th grade, our Ha was Ngoc, and I hope we were nicer to her than Ha's new classmates in Alabama. (less)
I am reading picture books today - I've been away and I needed to catch up on all the new stuff that has come in. And when you read twenty picture boo...moreI am reading picture books today - I've been away and I needed to catch up on all the new stuff that has come in. And when you read twenty picture books at a time, sometimes certain groupings assert themselves. Today, it's the Picture Book for Grownups.
Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde is a fine book for kids. Poems built on observation describe a black-and-white kitty's various moods and seeming split personality. Any kid who has a cat will recognize - yup, that's what cats are like. We have a black and white cat named Brother John who is certainly half cuddlebutt, half terrorist, and my kids would recognize Brother John in these pages.
But this is not a book that they would clasp to their bosom and cherish. Rather, any clasping and cherishing likely to be inflicted upon this book will be done by grownups who have owned cats, loved cats, and spent A LOT of time with their cats. Not to put too fine a point on it... LIBRARIANS. Maybe also writers and illustrators.