Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers 

Summary:  Reverso is an amazing poetic form invented by Marilyn Singer, in which the second half of the poem is the first half in reverse, with changes in punctuation that make the meaning very different.  Each of these reverse poems is based on a Greek myth that features two main characters, with each verse told from the point of view of one of those characters.  For example, Perseus’s verse goes:

“There is no man who wouldn’t be

Scared stiff.

Petrified indeed.

I must have your head,

stone-hearted monster!

I am the chosen

one to rid the world of you nasty creatures.

It is my curse to be the hero.

Look away.

You cannot

shield yourself from me.”


And here’s Medusa’s:

“Shield yourself from me?

You cannot

look away,


It is my curse to be the

one to rid the world of you nasty creatures.

I am the chosen

stone-hearted monster.

I must have your head,

petrified indeed—

scared stiff.

There is no man who wouldn’t be.”

The poems are laid out side by side, with an illustration on the facing page. The last page gives further information about Greek mythology and a few sources of myths to read. 32 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  These poems are so, so cool.  They would be a fantastic supplement to a mythology unit.  See the author’s Follow, Follow and Mirror, Mirror for reverso poems based on fairy tales.

Cons:  It would be great to write reverso poems with kids, but it seems like a pretty daunting format.  Maybe an enrichment group?

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be In This Book!) by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers


Summary:  It starts out sounding like an ordinary story: “Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.  His feet felt draggy.  His skin felt baggy.”  But then, Snappsy himself interrupts.  “This is terrible!  I’m just hungry!  Why is this rude narrator trying to make it seem like I need a nap?”  The book continues, with the narrator telling the story and Snappsy getting annoyed and correcting the narration.  Snappsy goes to the grocery store, goes home, and shuts himself into his house.  The narrator presses on, and Snappsy reveals that the story has made his day sound so boring, he’s decided to plan a party.  Sure enough, he cleans the house and ends up with quite the shindig, attended by all the neighbors.  At last, even the narrator shows up, turning out to be a pretty fun party guest, but badgering poor Snappsy right up to the very last page.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a hilarious read-aloud.  The usual narrative structure is turned on its head.  The cartoon illustrations are fun, with the narrator’s text written like a regular story and Snappsy’s in cartoon bubbles.  Comparisons with Mo Willems are apt.

Cons:  Those people who kind of remind me of the narrator.

Happy Birthday!

A year ago today, I started A Kids Book a Day with a review of the aptly titled A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel. This morning I published post #365, making it truly a kids’ book a day for a full year!  So what do you think?  Have the reviews been helpful to you?  Anything you’d like to see different for year 2?  Leave me a birthday comment!

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

Published by Greenwillow Books


Summary:  Waiting for spring can be hard.  There’s rain, mud, and sometimes, a brief return of winter.  But if you’re patient, you’ll see flowers blooming and eggs hatching, and you’ll feel the warm sun.  You’ll know it’s really spring when there are buds and bees and boots and bubbles; worms and wings and wind and wheels.  But you’re not done waiting, because then it’s time to wait for summer!  40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  The husband and wife team of Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek has created a book that perfectly captures the slow unfolding of spring from winter. The soft, brightly-colored illustrations perfectly complement the brief, but descriptive, text. The spring endpapers at the beginning and summer ones at the end encapsulate the movement from one season to the next.

Cons:  Don’t read this book until at least late March, or you’ll be depressed when you look out your window.

Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers by Sara Levine, illustrations by T. S. Spookytooth

Published by Millbrook Press 

Summary:  How many teeth do you have?  What are the names and functions of different types of teeth?  What kind of an animal would you be if you had really long incisors?  Or teeth that were all the same? Tooth by Tooth draws readers right in with questions about something all of us are pretty familiar with—our teeth.  Kids will learn which types of teeth are used by carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, and why only mammals have different types of teeth.  The last few pages include a glossary, additional resources, and more information about mammals and their teeth.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  The first book by this author/illustrator team, Bone by Bone is one of my favorite nonfiction read-alouds.  The questions make both books very interactive, and the illustrations are lots of fun, showing what you would look like with different types of bones or teeth.  Not only that, but there’s a ton of information packed into a short amount of text.

Cons:  I didn’t find teeth quite as varied and interesting as bones.

Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve, illustrated by Sarah McIntyre

Published by Random House 

Summary:  When Shen’s boat crushed by frozen waves in a sudden ice storm, he’s left on his own with part of the ship’s cargo—66 pugs.  They manage to cross the ice to the nearest village, where they meet Sika and her family. Sika tells Shen that it’s True Winter, an event that only happens once in a lifetime.  True Winter means the Snowfather can be reached at the North Pole, and there will be a sled race to get to him.  Whoever gets there first will be granted a wish.  Sika wants to go to see if she can save her dying grandfather; she has a sled, but no dogs.  Turns out sixty six pugs can do the work of a dog sled team, so off they all go, racing against a group of formidable opponents.  Undeterred by yetis, snowbots, and cheating competitors, the kids and their pugs prove that they are contenders.  224 pages; ages 7-10.

Pros: Don’t be put off by the goofy cover; this is a good adventure story with original characters and loveable characters. The humor is accentuated with silly illustrations on every page.

Cons: There’s no getting around it, those pugs are pretty ugly.

Can You Survive an Alien Invasion: An Interactive Doomsday Adventure by Blake Hoena

Published by Capstone Press 

Summary: You’re out in a field looking at Saturn through your telescope when suddenly you spot a UFO. If you decide to investigate, turn to page 12.  Running away? Page 16.  There are 28 choices and 12 different endings in this You Choose adventure.  All the endings are some form of impending doom (I ended up in the aliens’ food pen) or becoming a soldier in the human army fighting off the aliens.  The last few pages look at the possibility of life in outer space; also included are a glossary, sources of additional information, a survival kit checklist, and top 10 survival tips for an alien invasion.  112 pages; ages 8-12.

Pros:  Recommend this to reluctant readers.  If they enjoy it, they may want to move on to the rest of the series, which includes surviving a zombie apocalypse, a virus outbreak, and a global blackout.

Cons:  Each library bound edition retails for a ridiculous $31.32.