Jamaican-born poet Berry (When I Dance) celebrates his Caribbean heritage in this patchy collection of poems about childhood. Loosely organized around such topics as "Everyday Feelings" and "Together," Berry's best poems echo the rhythmic language of a Caribbean playground and invite readers to explore the natural world. Some poems, like the lengthy "Gobble-Gobble Rap," seem especially sure-footed and filled with infectious cadences and phrases: "Me do a whispa and a big shout/ with a meat-and-a-sweet mouth/ like a nonmeat, nonfish, puddn mouth/ which is a sleeper-waker, want-it-want-it mouth," it begins. Elsewhere, Berry's detailed descriptions of a seashell, of the "estate cowman" and of his Caribbean grandfather precisely and richly evoke their subjects. Many entries, however, seem pedestrian: "I love it when we play/ cricket or football/ or sit and watch a game on TV." Bryan (Beautiful Blackbird) contributes crisp black-and-white illustrations that resemble woodcuts. Large pictures introduce each section, while smaller images and designs accent some individual poems, creating a visual rhythm. Ages 7-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Gr 3-6-In his foreword, Berry explains that he was raised in Jamaica and always longed to hear the music of the Caribbean Creole language in poetry. These 60 selections, divided into six broad categories, are simple and spoken in the voice of a child. Most of the poems concern the universal events and emotions of childhood, such as the excitement of a good grade in school or the sounds of a snoring father, and will appeal to young writers and readers. However, the most interesting poems are those that depict island life. For example, from "Everyday Music": "All a mix together/village sounds make my music/with fighting dogs yelping/birds in trees twittering/a lonely goat bleating/hidden ground doves cooing/hidden mongoose shrieking." Occasional British words or island lingo may be unfamiliar to youngsters but the terms are defined at the bottom of the pages. Bryan's bold black-and-white prints appear throughout; they often have a stronger flavor of the Caribbean than the language. These poems are not as evocative as those found in Monica Gunning's Under the Breadfruit Tree (Boyds Mills, 2003), but Berry's collection will serve where additional simple poetry is needed.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.