A mordantly tender triumph rich with natural imagery.


Uschuk’s poetry collection calls out authoritarianism and social injustice.

This moving set of poems offer messages of hope as it addresses timely issues. It’s divided into four sections—“Skull Song,” “Axis,” “Liquid Book of the Dead,” and “Speaking of Angels and Ghosts”—and deals with a broad spectrum of hurt, including that felt by refugees, victims of racism, people struggling with cancer, and victims of domestic abuse. The opening poem, “A History of Morning Clouds and Contrails,” exemplifies Uschuk’s distinct style, melding political outcry with a deep immersion in nature. The landscape she depicts is one drained by its struggles: “Feel the warmth of an otter’s last dive / before ice takes the river. Police sirens / fade like contrails across the exhausted heart of this land.” Meanwhile, poems such as “Intraperitoneal Chemo” offer an affectingly visceral tableau of cancer treatment: “the port sewn / onto my lower rib to pour toxins into my emptied womb.” Despite such challenging themes, a note of positivity rings true throughout, with one speaker declaring, “I will not border on hysteria but will work on a poem to feed all of us.” One of the most powerful poems, “Cracking One Hundred,” ingeniously juxtaposes the migration of the monarch butterfly with the emigration of people from Central America. Its opening line provocatively reads, “Near the border, preschoolers worry about butterflies. / How can they fly over the wall?” The poem memorably closes with an image of butterflies arriving from Mexico on the White House lawn, “on bright rose petals tended by hands / the same color as earth that nourishes them.” Uschuk’s writing addresses worldwide injustices, although many salvos are clearly aimed at the Trump presidency, with elegant, razor-sharp lines such as “this poem doesn’t have anything to do with comb-overs / or glacier eyes or gray suits signing laws a jaguar wouldn’t stop to sniff.” Still, this is also a spellbindingly compassionate collection rooted in the belief that redemption remains possible: “Earth carries us, heals our wounds as we spin on the hub of desire.”

A mordantly tender triumph rich with natural imagery.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63628-019-6

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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Breathtakingly magical.


A powerful homage to the natural world, from England by way of Canada.

Combining poetic words (somewhat reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s poetry in their passion for the natural world) with truly stunning illustrations, this unusually beautiful book brings to readers the magic and wonder of nature. This is not a book about ecology or habitat; this is a book that encourages readers to revel in, and connect with, the natural world. Focusing on a particular subject, whether it be animal, insect, or plant, each poem (rendered in a variety of forms) delivers a “spell” that can be playful, poignant, or entreating. They are most effective when read aloud (as readers are encouraged to do in the introduction). Gorgeous illustrations accompany the words, both as stand-alone double-page spreads and as spot and full-page illustrations. Each remarkable image exhibits a perfect mastery of design, lively line, and watercolor technique while the sophisticated palette of warms and cools both soothes and surprises. This intense interweaving of words and pictures creates a sense of immersion and interaction—and a sense that the natural world is part of us. A glossary encourages readers to find each named species in the illustrations throughout the book­––and to go one step further and bring the book outside, to find the actual subjects in nature. Very much in the spirit of the duo’s magisterial The Lost Words (2018), this companion is significantly smaller than its sprawling companion; at just 6.5 by 4.5 inches when closed, it will easily fit into a backpack or generously sized pocket. “Wonder is needed now more than ever,” Macfarlane writes in the introduction, and this book delivers it.

 Breathtakingly magical. (Poetry. 6-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0779-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

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An often pleasant, time-skipping read that will engross fans of U.S. history, art, and architecture.



An offbeat novel that surveys American history from the 19th to 21st centuries through the unique perspective of an Italianate manor house and a garrulous portrait painting.

In this debut, architect Ashworth and composer Kander turn their artistic sensibilities to a narrative that explores ideas of progress, art, and the connections between humans and the places they live. Ambleside, a magnificent house built on a hill in Newton, Kansas, can see its surroundings but is unable to understand human language. A portrait of a woman named Mrs. Peale, hung within the house, can understand humans and communicate with the house but is only able to see things from its vantage point on the wall. The pair strike up a Socratic dialogue of sorts, combining their senses to piece together the story of the Hart family that inhabits Ambleside during its early years and to understand the sociocultural forces in the world around them. In this centurieslong conversation, Mrs. Peale acts as interlocutor for the endlessly curious house, taking up consideration of topics that range from household gossip to the substance of the soul. Readers also come to know Henry and Emmaline Hart, their three rambunctious daughters, and various other household staff members, friends, and descendants of the Hart family. The house and the painting share a charming fascination with etymology and classical antiquity, born out of the real Mrs. Peale’s time as an instructor of Greek and Latin at the Hartford Female Seminary, as well as a deep affection for the Harts that grows over decades. Throughout the narrative, the authors employ a light touch but also address weighty historical trends and events, including racial prejudice in the Jim Crow–era South, the women’s suffrage movement, the dire poverty of the Dust Bowl period, and two world wars. The detached perspective of the nonhuman protagonists offers a nuanced understanding of human nature, although the main characters’ moments of self-reflection are relatively few and fleeting, crowded out by quotidian meditations.

An often pleasant, time-skipping read that will engross fans of U.S. history, art, and architecture.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73691-125-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Blue Cedar Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2021

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