García Ordaz, who drew inspiration for his poetry from his brother’s untimely death, skillfully balances humor and solemnity within his writing, grasping that elusive sense of healing through the lighthearted banter that he references early on. He moves from a refrain on distinctive pets in “Pet Names” (“But not everyone owns cats or dogs./ Some go night-night with their hogs.”) to musing on the ins and outs of love in “The Ballad of Lizzie and Larry”: “Love doesn’t live just in pages of books./ It lives concealed right under our view./ We must open our eyes and just take a look.” That surprising insight persists, but García Ordaz is careful to keep the wisdom at a level that will please middle grade readers.
The inclusion of thought-provoking prompts before each poem gives the collection added depth, as does the sprinkling of creative activities García Ordaz pairs with his writing (fun pursuits like drawing the pets featured in the poems dot the pages). Perhaps most impactful is his consistent attention to the beauty of language in a host of forms, whether that’s his Spanish translation of several poems or the suggestions to use his poetry as a basis to explore more complex topics. This collection takes the “play on words” to a whole new level.
Takeaway: Entertaining poetry that balances humor with solemnity and heaps of winning wordplay
Comparable Titles: Chris Harris’s I’m Just No Good at Rhyming, Karen Jo Shapiro’s Because I Could Not Stop My Bike.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A-