Forwards Always: Poems to be read aloud

Cicada. Sept. 2023. 60p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781800660359.
Gr 1-5–Hodson’s collection of poems is a bit of an odd duck—and it seems to be deliberate. While the poems are generally about ordinary subjects like food and animals, each successive poem is as likely to zigzag from what readers might expect as to not. Throughout, the poems range in presentation, with several changing orientation on the page; in style, including a couple of scripts; and in scope, with a poem decrying cynicism sitting next to a list of more-and-less-real types of nuts. Occasional footnotes contribute to the chaos. The cheerful illustrations add a delightful touch of Technicolor whimsy. As a whole, the collection could serve as a child’s primer in early surrealism. Hodson orients readers in a note at the beginning to read the poems aloud and to be willing to play with them to find new ways of engagement. His advice is sound: approach this book willing to experiment, and the rewards will be ample, including bouncing through these unpretentious, silly ideas twisted around in fun, squashy rhythms. Other readers may find the collection random to the point of feeling disjointed. It’s worth cracking the collection open to find out.
VERDICT This delightful and idiosyncratic collection will need booktalking to find its audience.

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