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Stampede! Laura Purdie Salas & Steven Salerno

Book: Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School
Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Steven Salerno
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-9

Stampede!Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, written by Laura Salas and illustrated by Steven Salerno, is a series of poems that use animal themes to highlight aspects of school. These poems are delightful on several levels. The analogies are fun in and of themselves, and then enhanced by Salas' playful language. For example:

We crowd the empty schoolyard,
a flood of bumblebees.
We buzz and flitter-tumble,
trade gossip on the breeze."

I love the idea of kids as a swarm of bees, and I also love the phrase "flitter-tumble". A bit e.e. cummings-like, wouldn't you say"? One more quote:

When I'm feeling
I get nasty,
I get whiny.

Stay away or
I might stick you.
My sharp words are
quills to prick you."

Insightful, I thought. Words as quills to prick, and thus protect the defensive student. Plus I like the word "porcupine-y". Who doesn't feel porcupine-y, sometimes? Salas captures many other school-house worries, being embarrassed by a rumor, wanting to hide to not be called on in class, or just feeling sleepy. There is a poem here for every kid. The book would make, I think, an excellent classroom read-aloud.

Salerno's digitally enhanced gouache illustrations add to the fun. He's a master of sketching kids who resemble animals, but are still fully recognizable as kids. He also uses colors and shapes to capture the tone of the different poems. The Swarm kids flit visually around the page. However, a poem likening school to being trapped in a maze offers more subdued, linear images. I especially liked the bright yellow background of a poem with kids as ducklings, and the swooping tunnels inhabited by some young "prairie dogs". 

In short, Stampede! is a treat. It's fun to look at, and fun to read aloud, while tackling the universal trials and tribulations of elementary school life. Highly recommended, especially for K-3 kids.   

Publisher: Clarion 
Publication Date: April 6, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Poetry for Children 
Author Interviews: Celebrate Story, Wordswimmer, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.