Review of The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice

The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice
by A. F. Harrold; illus. by Mini Grey
Intermediate    Bloomsbury    160 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-5476-0677-1    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0678-8    $13.99

Harrold (The Song from Somewhere Else, rev. 5/17) presents poems (a few repurposed from previous collections) full of practical and not-so-practical insights on topics ranging from compliment-giving to where not to dunk your biscuits. Some are in loosely metered rhyme, others in free verse, often in an amusingly formal voice. “Never muddle your lunch box and pencil case, / because wood and graphite don’t taste / very nice. / (I only ever did this twice.)” It’s all very silly, and sometimes gross (“Rabbit Risks”) or dark (“Nasty Rabbit Poem”) — but it’s clear, even without the introductory admonition to “use your brain and work out for yourself which bits to follow and which bits to ignore,” that hardly anything is meant to be taken seriously. Adding to the sense of playfulness is the poems’ varied placement in and around Grey’s (Traction Man Is Here!, rev. 3/05) vibrantly colored illustrations, as well as occasional pages that encourage reader participation: a few blank spaces for writing or drawing; a fill-in-the-blanks “Advice-a-Tron 216.” Make of the advice what you will, but enjoy — and, seriously, don’t put a crocodile in your ear.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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