“Imagine! Wish! Support! Invent!”Hopkins organizes this brief, thematic anthology into three sections under the larger umbrella of imagining: “Wish! Be a Storybook Character”; “Support! Be a Person Who Helps”; and “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker.” Each of the collected poems is written in the first-person, and Hsu’s energetic, cartoon-style digital illustrations depict the diverse children as the individual speakers. Words and pictures alike often upend stereotypes and gender norms. For example, a poem about pretending to be a mermaid by Janet Clare Fagal depicts a brown-skinned child with tight, close-cropped curls wearing a green, striped T-shirt as the voice of the poem, allowing children of varying gender identifications to see themselves. Hopkins’ introductory statement affirms that “There is nothing better than being yourself,” which doesn’t undermine the title in the least since he goes on to affirm the fun in pretend play. Sometimes such play is aspirational, and the poems included in the categories “Support!” and “Invent” by authors such as Douglas Florian, Prince Redcloud, and Joan Bransfield Graham (with the standout offering “Nurse: Healing Hand”) give voice to career ambitions. Others, such as the aforementioned “A Mermaid’s Tale” poem, and Lois Lowry’s “Big Problems” (about the challenges of being a giant’s wife) offer up more fanciful imaginings.A good collection, for real.
Well-known anthologist Hopkins here focuses on make-believe play, presenting 15 possibilities for children to explore being and doing fanciful or everyday things, with contributions from Lois Lowry, Prince Redcloud, and Douglas Florian. Thematically divided into three sections, the poems feature peppy, reader-directed introductions, followed by first-person poems accompanied by illustrations of diverse children play-acting. “Wish! Be a Storybook Character” showcases fantasy figures such as pirates (“I cry argh to the ocean, / wail yarr to the sky”); “Support! Be a Person Who Helps” includes a firefighter, nurse, and pilot. “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker” spotlights a chef, dancer, and video-game creator, among others. Colorful, cartoon illustrations depict the children, their activities, and the classroom objects inspiring them with subtle, sketchy background elements, like a girl wearing a hard hat and building with blocks and boxes against cityscape background, which extend the themes presented. Throughout, the collection conveys that there are many options for each child, irrespective of gender, and the encouraging, upbeat approach will likely pique interests and imaginations.