Reviews, etc., of Outside The Lines . . .

"There's some calorie-burning reading here . . . "*

 "Dad, people have lives! You might show just the review highlights, on one page." 

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[The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB) selected Outside The Lines: Poetry At Play as a Blue Ribbon award winner for nonfiction, 2002--one of  only 11 children's books selected in that category for the year. 

The BCCB also made the book  a "starred" selection for April, 2002.] ]

Scholastic Storyworks (the magazine) included a poem ("Leaf Pile") as the leading full-page feature in its October, 2002 issue.  (Not accessible on the Web.)

*Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)
Reviewer: Deborah Stevenson 
sparkling synthesis of text, layout, and art offers twenty-two poems about youthful play that refuse to allow imprisonment in a book to keep them static. While they might be fairly termed concrete poems (and a few of the entries, such as “Leaf Pile,” engage in the familiar pattern-poem format), that’s almost too staid a term for these verses, with their thematically appropriate interest in depicting action and movement rather than things. “Rolling Downhill,” for instance, joyously depicts the swiftly changing, gradually slowing viewpoint of a downhill gyration (“Green green/blue blue/ . . . blue/ green/ blue/ blue/ THROUGH!”), the words stacked and slanting on the page, separating as the pace of the tumble slackens. There’s some calorie-burning reading here, as in “Skipping,” where the reader follows the skipper by shifting back and forth from left to right (two words each time, of course) on a progress up the page (“Left foot/right foot,/here I/go now”). . . . Bouncier but no less interesting than Janeczko’s A Poke in the I (BCCB 6/01), this will give kids a chance to leap into poetry.

[From the BCCB's award-selection text:] Clever text, imaginative visuals, and creative layout combine to make a sparkling and playful collection of poetry in action on the page.

Booklist (the review journal of the American Library Association).

Ages 4-9. Design, pictures, and words . . . work together in this playful concrete poetry, where the words jump all over the pages in shapes and arrangements that fit the subjects. When the poem is about flying kites, the one-word lines begin at the bottom of the page and reach up and high to the top. In "Frisbee," the words are in a big circle. In "Softball," each player in the double-page spread has a brief verse about the game


School Library Journal
Reviewer: Jane Marino

Grades 1-3--A visually delightful book of concrete poems that celebrate playtime pursuits like swinging, Frisbee, and softball. The words glide, bounce, or are stacked over the page, reinforcing the movements and activities they describe. Full-page watercolors combine with small, decorative illustrations to create a playful impression. . . .


Publisher's Weekly (Starred review):
The poems in this high-energy debut collection mimic the shapes and forms of the children's games they celebrate.
A poem about a girl on a swing follows her arc as she flies through the air, leaving a trail of words across the page; the poem "Tic-Tac-Toe" requires some knowledge of the game in order to follow the verse's flow (or else it teaches the rules as readers go along). First-time illustrator Gibbon's understated watercolor spreads and vignettes accent Burg's whimsy without overshadowing it. "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," for instance, shows only the guiding hands of the onlookers around the edges, together with a subtle sprinkling of balloons and confetti to imply a party atmosphere. In a tour-de-force, one of Burg's briefest poems puts words to the act of looking at sky and ground while rolling down a hill: "Green/ green/ blue/ blue/ green/ green/ blue/ blue/ dandelion!/ green/..."; a dizzy boy lies at the bottom of the slope as his panting dog comes running. The adventurous verses try everything from kite-flying to castle-building. Young readers will  . . . appreciate the way their experiences can be preserved on the page. Ages 5-up.


Kirkus Reviews
Children trying to navigate these cheery concrete poems would be well-advised to follow the rhymes, because the words might read back and forth to evoke a game of "Catch"; up from the bottom, down from the top, or both ("Slide"); in spirals, swoops, or even from the center out ("Tic-Tac-Toe [A Battle Plan]"). Gibbons gives the verses plenty of elbowroom, setting them against spacious stretches of lawn, sand, wide, city streets or, sometimes, unadorned white space. Musician/songwriter Burg writes of happy times on ball fields, playgrounds . . . beaches . . . and back yards. If he closes with an invitation to "Connect the Dots" that may have children reaching for a pen or pencil, still the visual challenge of reading this poetry can be engrossing, and to judge from the popularity of Paul Janeczko's collection, A Poke in the I (2001), concrete poetry may be enjoying a renaissance. (Poetry. 7-10)

orealis Magazine:
Reviewer: Christine Alfano
Brad Burg's Outside the Lines is a compendium of concrete poetry that gives playful shape to ordinary childhood experience. The opening poem, "Catch," works rhythmic mischief and perfectly captures the cadence of a ball flying between two mitts. Single syllables are split into two neat columns so that the eye must travel back and forth across the page, giving time, as it were, for the ball to sail through the air and smack the leather of the other glove. The poem reveals "THE / SLEE- / PY / SOUND / OF / SUM- / MER'S / CLOCK." . . . .


Language Arts (the Journal of the National Council of Teachers of English).
Reviewers: Junko Yokota and Mingshui Cai
[The book] celebrates many traditional childhood games. . .  In “Catch,” the words fly back and forth across the page like a ball. In “Connect the Dots,” readers must follow the numbered dots in order to read the words in the correct order. “Tic-Tac-Toe” requires knowing the strategies of the game to read the “battle plan” in order. The book is a cohesive visual experience through which readers gain as much from the design of the illustrations as from the clever layout of the text in offering concrete poetry. The acrylic paintings complement the text perfectly and enhance the comprehensibility of the poem. Readers will have an opportunity to reflect on each poem and think about how it relates to the games played in childhood.


The Free Library of Philadelphia

Twenty-two exuberant poems provide a delightful glimpse into a child's world of play. Poems shaped like a game of catch, tag, or a jungle gym will fascinate the reader. Rebecca Gibbon's lively watercolor illustrations splash across the pages and complement the unique construction of each poem. Children in Grades 3-5 will enjoy this immensely!

Riverbank Review (of Books For Young Readers)

reviewer: Renee Victor
For anyone who considers poetry to be a sedate art, here are twenty-two poems that just won't sit still. The titles alone suggest motion --"Swing," "Slide" . . . and the poems' ingenious positioning on pages bursting with dynamic, vibrantly colored illustrrations keep the momentum going from cover to cover. . . .Another kind of movement  . . . is the deft shift betweeen different characters' perspectives. In "Softball," [the author] succinctly voices the individual concerns of . . . all nine players in the field  . . Burg's language is consistently simple and accessible, infused with the childlike exhiliration of the moment at hand. Outside The Lines is an enthusiastic celebration of play. Its energy is as hard to resist as the enticing red, gold, and orange mound in "Leaf Pile," which can't be ignored despite Dad's order to "keep things neat." The children try to hold back, but, as they say, "when we see them piled up high, our legs tell us it's time to fly." Likewise, Burg's poems make it impossible to stand off to one side and observe.  Readers are compelled to jump in.


Reviewer: Emily Coulter

Contrary to grownup advice, most kids know that drawing (or doing anything, for that matter) outside the lines can be a whole lot of fun. Concrete poet Brad Burg and illustrator Rebecca Gibbon's rolling, swinging, skipping, bouncing book of "poetry at play" pays delightful tribute to this concept. Each of Burg's 22 poems traces the patterns of the games they celebrate: "Catch" requires a dizzying feat of visual agility, as each word appears all the way across the page from the next, like a ball zooming from player to player. "Paper Airplane" follows the flight pattern of a newsprint jet until it winds up in the peeved teacher's hair. And "Slide" climbs slowly up the steps "all the way up to the tippy-top," only to plummet down the other side: "ooh what / a ride / I slide / and glide / I slip and / slide and / slide and / slide and / then I / stop." Gibbon's watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations are playful and appealing. . . .


 Amazon customer reviews

Reviewer: Roz Levine  

Brad Burg introduces poetry at play, 22 delightful and intriguing poems that literally run, skip, bounce, swing, float, and slide across the pages demonstrating each playtime activity. Mr Burg's poems are filled with energy, rhythm, and motion, as your eyes follow each cleverly worded activity from playing catch, tag, or soccer, throwing a frisbee, flying kites and paper airplanes, and climbing the jungle gym, to blowing bubbles, watching fireflies, jumping in a leaf pile or on your bed, and building a sand castle. Rebecca Gibbon's bright and charming illustrations enhance each verse, and help bring it to life on the page. Together, words and art offer an imaginative, interactive collection that is both a feast for the eyes and the ears. Perfect for youngsters 5 and older, Outside The Lines is a marvelous introduction to "concrete" poetry, and a fun-filled masterpiece of creativity, not to be missed.





 [Note from Brad: I've tried to supply reviewers' names, where available. It's very gratifying that reviewers conveyed what the book is about with so much care, and so vividly, and with such appropriately poetic use of language.]  

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