Review Blog

Nov 23 2020

The book of not entirely useful advice by A.F. Harrold

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Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526618016. 121p.
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Poetry, Nonsense. Penned by English poet, A.F. Harrold, young children are rewarded with chunks of snappy rhyme and sometimes bonus glee. The foreword advises us not to follow any of the bad advice, thereby writes the author, making this a useful collection. Delicious extras make the anthology evermore useful: a searchable index, contents and a glossary of 'Knots of the world'. Not to mention interactive blank canvases for the reader's own drawings or poems; plus an advice generator - customize the template to build your own Advice-A-Tron animated by a roll of the dice.
Aesthetically, our interest is sustained by the cute animations of A.F. Harrold, several animals and selected children. Mini Grey throws in a colourful parrot saying "Bum" twice - double the hilarity. A.F. Harrold rounds his text with an afterword including some final advice not attached to poems such as: "You are not alone. We all feel like that sometimes."
But what of the poetic advice? Not letting the broccoli drive the car seems too obvious followed by such nonsense lines as "Always keep an onion handy, They're great for self-defence" and poems entitled "Gravy is Not Perfume". But this closet poet throws in the odd serious gem to groom his young readers to appreciate the paradigmatic insertions in poetry.
It's a good picnic
to which you need carry no food,
simply slip off your shoes,
let your toes grow down,
rooting around,
deep into the soil,
supping and sifting,
and you palm up your hands
and drink
the sunshine.
The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice is a library must and would engage lower/middle school readers on a lazy afternoon in: drawing or writing - or simply learning to be still and more self-aware. With poetry, less really is more.
Deborah Robins

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