Tag Archives: Rebecca Kai Dotlich

A Family Like Yours by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

A Family Like Yours by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Rebecca Kai Dotlich. A Family Like Yours. Boyd’s Mill Press, 2002. ISBN 978-1563979163 32 pp. $


Diversity is the theme of Dotlich’s newest picture book, an illustrated poem titled A Family Like Yours. By using partial rhymes such as dine/time, the rhyme never feels forced, and the text has a steady beat to it without sounding singsongy. The line “There are families whose days may seem perfect to you./And families that have bangs and bumps, and most do,” is a gentle reminder that there is no such thing as a perfect family, and the book ends on a reassuring note the family that fits “is the family like yours.”

Repetition draws the reader in and gives the book rhythm; each page begins “Some families” and goes on to juxtapose some possible activities or behaviors, such as enjoying nature/going to the opera, being messy/neat, or having no children/having many children. These contrasts demonstrate that all families are different and different is okay, a wonderful concept to impart to children. What a shame the illustrator, art director, and editor missed this message in creating the images for this book.

Dotlich’s words provide ample opportunity for picturing non-traditional families: adoptive families, gay/lesbian parented families, foster families, or families where grandparents or relatives care for children. Single parents are pictured a few times, but instead of tackling the diversity theme, Lyon substitutes animal families in several illustrations. Although a few minorities are pictured, most of the illustrations of people feature Caucasians and there are no mixed race families. Another missed opportunity is the portrayal of different cultures: the image of a Russian family in traditional dress is well done, but the Asian family looks like they are wearing bathrobes. The colors are bright and the compositions dynamic, but the images are a bit flat-looking and sometimes too cutesy.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, the art director begins to play with text, putting “bellow” in bold and spacing out the letters of the word “s l o w l y.” The effect is fun and dramatic, but one wonders why she didn’t also slant the word “race” to make it look fast or change the font size for the word “small.” Other problems include the cover image (which is exactly the same as one of the pictures in the book) and a line about families traveling that is illustrated with a spaceship.

This book does fill a gap and has an excellent message. It could be used in the classroom as the starting point for projects on family history, culture, pictures and family trees, but potential purchasers should be aware that the words and images do not quite mesh.

When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illus. by Karen Dugan

When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illus. by Karen Dugan

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai illus. by Karen Dugan. When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder. Wordsong, 2013 (reprint). ISBN 978-1620910313 32 pp. $7.95


Following in the footsteps of poetry master Emily Dickinson, Dotlich presents her own collection of riddle poems for young readers. Poems about gumballs and snowflakes, yo-yos and pizza, celebrate childhood by focusing on individual experiences or everyday items. Each poem combines a sentence or two of evocative hints to solve a “what am I?” riddle.

Several poems use shape to get the point across, with unruly letters snaking into descriptive shapes. “Rumble” looks as if it is vibrating, while “slips” slides down an invisible slope. A poem about a snake practically begs for a sinuous weaving of words on the page, but Dotlich exaggerates the Ssss’s instead.

Gems include a roller coaster poem with a faintly uneven rhythm, as if you are on an amusement park thrill ride and don’t know what’s around the corner. Dotlich captures the of fireworks in one sentence: “I boom,/I pop,/I stay up late–/my neon colors/decorate/with bold design/and brilliant flair;/a masterpiece/I make/of air.” A teapot poem cleverly uses a word game to create the riddle.

Accompanying illustrations in shadowy-cool yet vibrant tones of spring green, purple, aqua, lemon and dark orange all but shout the answers, providing extra assistance on the tough ones and extending the poem in other cases. Some of the artwork has an extreme close-up perspective that lends an appealing abstract quality while presenting more of a challenge. Like alphabet soup, the borders are sprinkled with letters that spell the answer. Solutions are located at the front of the book for the clueless.

The language is vocabulary-building fun, and the poet makes use of tools such as pun as well as simile. Some poems will sound sing-songy if read wrong; a few non-rhyming poems would have been a nice reminder that not all poems must rhyme, but the rollicking rhythm moves the poems, and the rhyme scheme never feels forced. While perhaps too challenging for a preschool story hour, “When Riddles Come Rumbling” is perfect for introductory units on poetry, either in the classroom or shared at home.

The extension possibilities for this book are only as limited as one’s imagination. Children can develop their own riddle poems, assemble cut out letters to make words, or words to make poems; come up with a list of words that are onomatopoeic or take their own shapes, or learn about other poets who wrote in similar style. Recommended for purchase.