Reviews for Bookspeak! : Poems About Books

Booklist Reviews 2011 December #2
Bright, mixed-media collage scenes illustrate this picture-book poetry collection that plays with literary allusions. In "Cliffhanger," a desperate dog clinging to a cliff above a shark-filled ocean implores, "Please, author, write / a sequel fast!" In another selection, a character pleads for his life: "Don't close the cover and don't walk away / Don't leave me squished in here day after day." On one spread, the index brags: "I'm telling you, kid: ignore the rest of the book. / All you really need is me." Plot has a voice in another poem: "My characters / hate me. They don't think I'm grand. / But without me / their plots / would be dreary / and bland." And in a poem for three voices, Beginning and Ending try to comfort Middle and show him he matters, and then the three vie for importance. With its mix of poetic forms and wry twists on language-arts terms, this is a natural choice for sharing in classrooms and young writers' workshops. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2012 April
Poetry springs up everywhere

Every year I look forward to the spring crop of children’s poetry books, which always brings a bouquet of creativity. This year is no exception.


The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems, illustrated by Antoine Guilloppv©, is a fascinating collection sure to captivate young and old alike. Just leave this book out in plain sight and watch what happens!

What is a “found” poem, you might ask? It’s a piece of already existing text that is then “made” into a poem, as explained by editor Georgia Heard, who collected these examples. Such text might be a line from Twitter, a note found on a floor, a photo caption, a sign or graffiti.

For instance, here’s a poem called “Pep Talk” that consists of phrases from a box of OxiClean detergent:

   Keep cool.
   See a brighter solution.
   Mountain freshness.
   Boost your power!

This little book makes for fun perusing. There’s a poem created by crossword puzzle clues, another from a dictionary entry and another from the book titles on a young girl’s shelf. This is a collection guaranteed to inspire family fun or give students a new way to look at poetry.


Run, jump, blow bubbles or stomp in a puddle: That’s the refreshing theme of A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play. Prolific poet Marilyn Singer doesn’t disappoint in this celebration of classic children’s fun, which is likely to remind adults of their own experiences hosing friends with sprinklers, rolling down hills and playing hopscotch or hide and seek.

Singer captures the endearing exuberance of childhood with poems like “Really Fast”:

   Skateboard races,
   pigeon chases,
   running bases.
   Backyard dashes,
   racecar crashes,
   puddle splashes.
   Everything’s a blast
   when you do it really fast!

LeUyem Pham’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to these lively poems. Her colorful pages are full of smiling kids who laugh, leap and lunge. But be forewarned: This book isn’t a great choice for bedtime, because the poems will make readers want to head right out the door.

Outdoorsy kids are likely to adore a new poetry collection with the engrossing title Nasty Bugs. Children’s poetry connoisseur Lee Bennett Hopkins has collected another winning swarm of poems, with names sure to entice kids, such as “Stink Bug,” “Ode to a Dead Mosquito” and “Barbed and Dangerous.”

Will Terry’s illustrations are truly glorious, with a spread on the stink bug swirling in a fiery background of orange, red and yellow as a huge green bug leers at the reader, with fumes rising. Terry brings readers eye to eye with a litany of malevolent creatures, such as fire ants, boll weevils, lice and bedbugs.

Many mothers will (not!) appreciate the first verse of Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s poem, “Lice”:

   Ridiculous Pediculus
   O tiny vampire louse
   You crawl from head
            to head
                 to head
   from house
           to house
                to house.

Not only are these poems fun, they also contain facts that will keep kids entertained, educated and grossed out, all at the same time. In addition, an explanatory section at the end contains a short but intriguing entry for each bug mentioned.

For more outdoor poems, dip into the exceptionally clever A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down. Dana Jensen has written a series of “vertical” poems, with each line containing just one word. Some of these poems read from top to bottom, while others read from bottom to top. Kids will love this form and no doubt want to try to write their own.

Jensen writes about such upward and downward topics as giraffe necks, popping balloons, rockets blasting into space and kites soaring in the wind. Tricia Tusa’s illustrations add the perfect touch of humor, personality and motion.


When my identical twin girls were born 13 years ago, I dearly wish I’d had Take Two! A Celebration of Twins. This is a treasure chest of poems for parents, siblings and twins, sprinkled here and there with interesting facts. (Imagine, for instance, this hard-to-believe item: “In the 1700s, Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev of Shuya, Russia, had sixteen sets of twins. She also gave birth to four sets of quadruplets and seven sets of triplets!”)

Written by the dynamic children’s literature duo of J. Patrick Lewis (a twin himself) and Jane Yolen, these fun poems address many aspects of twinhood, including the novelty, fun and frustrations. Best of all, the poems are both heartfelt and humorous. Consider these lines from “What’s It Like to Be a Twin?”:

   ’Cause a twin’s a double rainbow
   Or the fork that goes with the knife.
   He may wear around the edges,
   But he’s guaranteed for life.

This is a beautifully designed book as well, with layouts pleasing to the eye and doubly adorable illustrations by Sophie Blackall. Even though my twins become teenagers this month, I’m keeping this book on our shelves for years to come.


BookSpeak!: Poems about Books is a lively, lovely literary collection. Laura Purdie Salas writes verses about things like coming to the end of a book, falling asleep while reading and an avid reader begging for a sequel. One particularly clever poem asks readers to pay attention to the indexes of books and says: “So I’m telling you, kid: / ignore the rest of the book. / All you really need is me.”

Josee Bisaillon’s illustrations are varied and wonderful, adding an extra dimension of fun and whimsy.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In twenty-one clever, amusing, and spirited poems, books find their voices: an index beckons a reader to look up page numbers, a cover shouts out "Please stop! Take a look!", a library book compares being checked out to going on vacation. Buoyant mixed-media illustrations celebrate books as concrete objects while reinforcing their role as springboard for imagination.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 October #3

"Put down the controller./ Switch off the TV./ Abandon the mouse and/ just hang out with me." From the outset, this collection of poems makes its message clear: books are where it's at. Salas's polished verse demonstrates a deep love for all aspects of books, from their content to their creators, and she's not above using a touch of guilt to get her audience invested: "If a book remains unopened/ and no reader turns its page,/ does it still embrace a story/ or trap words inside a cage?" She celebrates the physical print book, too (e-readers go unmentioned), with poems dedicated to indexes, cliffhanger endings, and even bookplates ("Write your name upon me/ I'm a paper love tattoo"). Bisaillon's mixed media illustrations are dizzyingly inventive, their bright colors, sampling of typography, and whimsical details underscoring the idea of the potential that awaits between the covers. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 December

Gr 3-5--Some of these 21 poems are written in rhyme and meter, while others are free verse. They vary in length from a few to several stanzas, and all are well crafted and clever, covering a variety of aspects of books and reading. Salas includes poems about an index, a cover, cliff-hangers, and falling asleep while reading. The poems are, by turns, philosophical, humorous, and even instructional. Typeset is creative, and the titles appear in a variety of artistic font styles and colors. Whimsical, mixed-media illustrations grace every page. Bisaillon skillfully incorporates the printed poems into the artwork so that the words and images have a single, unified, visual effect. This is an appealing offering that will be especially popular with librarians. For a collection of "book" poems by a variety of authors, Lee Bennett Hopkins's I Am the Book (Holiday House, 2011) is also a good choice.--Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT

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