April 13, 2021

Review: A World Full of Poems

A World Full of Poems
Selected by Sylvia M. Vardell
Illustrated by Sonny Ross
Available now from DK Children
Review copy

It can be easy to think of poetry as boring and stilted, though I think Amanda Gorman provided a recent reminder of the power and vitality of poetry. A World Full of Poems aims to introduce children to a range of poetry. Family and Friends, Feelings, Science and Art, and Body and Health are just a few of the topics covered.

In addition to the variety of content, the poetry is appropriate for very young children to elementary school children. (Though more lean to the very young side.) The authors come from many countries and represent several different ethnicities. There's classic poetry from Emily Dickinson and Robert Louis Stevenson next to new poetry by Linda Sue Park. Many different forms of poetry are represented, especially those that appeal to children. Shape poems, sound poems, silly rhymes. 

Sylvia M. Vardell is a professor of children's literature and clearly has a depth of knowledge in the field. Though I'm sure parents reading to their children will find poems they like collected within this anthology, these poems seem selected strictly for child appeal. The illustrations by Sonny Ross are also very child friendly. They're bright and bold and I'm sure many children will be captivated by a picture and drawn into the poem the picture was created to accompany.

Although A World Full of Poems is grouped into thematic categories, I think it is best encountered by browsing to random pages and reading a few poems at a time. I do have a few small quibbles. For instance, the Family and Friends section includes three poems that are specifically about fathers and none about mothers. Overall, however, I think this is a wonderful introduction to poetry for young readers.

There's also a helpful index as well as several activities included in the back.

April 10, 2021

Review: It Only Happens in the Movies

It Only Happens in the Movies

By Holly Bourne
Available now from HMH Books for Young Readers
Review copy

It Only Happens in the Movies looks like a romcom. But really, it is the bildungsroman of protagonist Audrey, who hates romcoms. Her parents perfect romance fell apart and now she lives with her mother (who is in the throes of a breakdown), her brother is at college and no help, and her father lives with his new family. Her recent breakup caused her to quit drama to avoid her ex. Yet just as she starts a school essay on the terrible fantasy of romcoms, she finds herself living in one with her new coworker.

When Audrey starts working at a movie theater, she knows Harry is bad news, even before everyone warns her not to get invested in his flirting. Then he casts her in his zombie movie and Audrey starts regaining confidence in her talent as well as falling for the parts of him that aren't a suave ladies' man.

I enjoyed how UK author Holly Bourne used and subverted common YA romance tropes (from both books and movies). Audrey's issues are very realistic and often painful. I truly sympathized with her when the full truth of her first relationship came out. I also really enjoyed that Audrey not only made personal growth, but found the support she needed from friends and family over the course of the novel. I particularly loved that her friends didn't begrudge her being distant while she went through a difficult time.

It Only Happens in the Movies is a fun YA novel that seems like it is going to veer into cliche at times, but makes up for it by completely sticking the landing. It is a great choice for contemporary fans.

April 4, 2021

Review: ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, Artist Series

The Lion and the LambIllustrated by Joshua Noom (The Lion and the Lamb), Lulie Wallace (In Bloom), Jess Phoenix (Garden), and Jake Weidmann (Dwelling Place)
Available now from Crossway
Review copy

To coincide with Easter, Crossway released several new editions of their English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible, including a single column journaling Bible. This version was released in six special artist editions with beautiful covers. I have been able to experience and review four of them. 

Personally, I do not love the ESV (2001). The ESV is a lightly revised version of the 1972 version RSV. The translation project was approached with a conservative evangelical ideology. One thing I do like about this translation is that it follows the Colorado Springs Guidelines, which means that it translates words that are gender non-specific in Greek or Hebrew as gender non-specific in English rather than making a male translation the default. (For example, "anyone" instead of "any man," which is generally a better translation anyway.) While the ESV isn't an entirely accurate translation of the Bible, it does have the appeal of being a very literal yet idiomatic and approachable version.

The text of this Bible is printed in 7.5 font with a pre-lined column of two inches along the side for notes. The paper is thin, but since there are so many pages, the bulk of the book prevents a pen or pencil from breaking through the page. (Though I would not recommend writing forcefully.) The lines make the journaling area best for those with small handwriting, or who are willing to ignore the lines. I do love having an area to make notes directly in the Bible.

Each of these would make a beautiful gift. They come with ribbon bookmarks and a clear sleeve protecting the cover. There is also a small slip of paper inside each explaining the artist's inspiration. The only thing I dislike about this artist series as art is that three of six covers feature floral themes, especially since one of the regular editions also features flowers. It seems somewhat repetitive.

"The Lion and the Lamb" by Joshua Noon was the first piece to capture my attention. It has an almost woodcut look to the art, or, thanks to the paneled style, a church's stained glass window. There are foil accents on the front, back, and side, which makes the bold art style even more eye catching. The classic lion and lamb symbology is featured, but other common images like the dove with a sprig of greenery and the burning bush are also included. I think it is fun to try to recognize all the elements represented.

In Bloom"In Bloom" by Lulie Wallace is cloth over board, other like the other three I am reviewing, which are hardcover. She does have experience with textiles, and the images of flowers printed on cloth remind me of Sunday dresses. However, the cloth does run the danger of snags. Wallace's artist card mentioned that she wanted to make an appealing design for a Bible left out around the home. I do think this would look nice sitting on a coffee table, but I also find that very generic and not what I look for in a Bible.

Garden"Garden" by Jess Phoenix does have a cloth spine. The art is repeated on the front and back and does not wrap around the spine. There is one tiny difference - a small cross on the cover. There are gold foil accents, including the cross being an entirely gold outline. Phoenix's artist note says that she wanted to keep the cross in the center of her design, which represents Jesus as the gardener of her life. I find it less generic than Wallace's cover, but it still doesn't wow me as a Bible cover, especially given all the potential botanical imagery there is to mine.

Dwelling Place"Dwelling Place" by Jake Weidmann didn't capture my attention on the screen, but I find it beautiful and vibrant in person. There is a great deal of detail to the swallow that can't be seen in a thumbnail. In addition, Weidmann is a Master Penman and the swirls surrounding the swallow have a beautiful fluidity to them. The dark colors glow against the cream background. The inspiration for this piece is the swallow who delivers a message of hope in Matthew. I'm not sure I'm convinced by switching a sparrow for a swallow, but it is a beautiful bird.

Overall, I think this artist series is a very nice project. I like journaling Bibles and I like the idea of using the cover as a canvas for works of that match the mood and tone with which one approaches the Bible. I do wish I'd also gotten to see "Sanctus" by Peter Voth in person, but I am glad I got to experience four of them since the thumbnails don't do them justice. I think these make wonderful gifts if you know someone who would vibe with one of the covers.


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