Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: and Other Poems

illus. by Carin Berger. 40p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-201464-1; PLB $18.89. ISBN 978-0-06-201465-8. LC 2011025993.
PreS-Gr 2—Prelutsky has created unusual creatures through odd pairings of usual things, and crossing stars and sardines is just one interesting idea he explores: "In giant schools, their brilliant lights/Illuminate the darkest nights." Sixteen short poems each focus on an animal with a surprise twist. "Slobsters" are a mess and "Plandas" think things out to a fault. Some selections, like "Jollyfish," focus on a creature's personality, while others, like "Gloose," deal more with physical traits or habits, like "Panteater." The singsong rhymes are clever, and the collage art, created by combining cut paper and found objects, brings the book to life. These creatures are entertaining by themselves but also could make terrific inspiration for children interested in coming up with their own imaginary animals.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Ingenious book design pairs with inventive poetry to create this museum-in-a-book of animal poems, featuring unusual critters such as Fountain Lions, Braindeer, and Slobsters. The concept itself is simple: combine a real animal with a quality that fits into the name (Bobcat + Sob = Sobcat, "sad / As a feline can be"). The fun comes in the perfect but unexpected matches Prelutsky makes, such as the Stardines of the title, who "twinkle overhead," or the Jollyfish, "radiant, / Ebullient blobs of mirth." Berger sets up each illustration to look like a diorama in a museum, incorporating found objects, aged paper, and other miscellanea to tag and label the various beasts. The total effect is both whimsical and fascinating, with rich language in the poems and unexpected objects in the pictures to return to over and over again. Prelutsky concludes with (presumably) a little poke at himself in the poem about Bardvarks, who "think they're poets / And persist in writing rhyme" -- but children will be glad he persisted. susan dove lempke

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