They Only See the Outside by Kalli Dakos

They Only See the Outside

Kalli Dakos, Author

Jimothy Oliver, Illustrator

Magination Press, Poetry, Mar. 23, 2021

Suitable for ages:  7- 10

Themes: Poetry, Emotions, Bullying, Name calling, Illness, Death, War, Immigration, Separation 

Kalli Dakos has written a beautiful collection of poetry that explores what kids feel on the inside that can’t be seen from the outside. The poems focus on everyday experiences that range from body image, the death of a pet or friend, and homework, to friends moving away, living in a wheelchair and the difficulties of being a refugee.

Kids will relate to each poem in some manner. They are written in free verse, which makes them fun and contemporary. The poems nudge kids to explore their own feelings about each subject. Oliver’s sensitive and expressive illustrations complement the poems and make them relatable. 

I Will Never Crumble

I’m in a wheelchair.

My dad is too.

I want to ride a bike.

I want to hike.

I want to run in the wind. 

I want to play soccer.

But I can’t.

I ask my dad, 
“why me?  Why us?

My dad says,

“Why NOT Us?

Life is unfair,

but we must go on anyway…

They Only See the Outside is a perfect tool for teachers, parents and counselors. The poems can be read aloud and discussed. The poems will introduce kids to writing free verse. Encourage kids to write their own poems about something they are feeling inside. And they can be humorous. Writing can help draw out feelings and make them easier to talk about. I highly recommend this book!

Kalli Dakos is a children’s poet and educator. She visits schools across the United States and Canada to encourage children and teacher to write about their own lives. She has written many collections of school poems that include six ILA/CBC Children’s Choice Selections, such as If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand. She lives in Ottawa, Canada, and has an office in Ogdensburg, NY. Visit here at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.  

My Story Friend by Kalli Dakos

My Story Friend

Kalli Dakos, Author

Dream Chen, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, May 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Boy, Compassion, Listening, Self-acceptance

Opening: “There is the person who tells the story. This is the story teller. / And there is the person who listens to the story. This is the story friend.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

When a child treks across the land in search of someone to tell his sad story to, he meets a gruff mountain man who can’t stand unhappy stories and a too busy to be bothered farmer.  Finally he meets an old woman, who tells stories herself and is willing to  listen. She becomes his story friend. The act of telling the story leads the child to look at the other side and make what was dark lighter and full of hope and positivity.

The true potency of needing to express one’s unhappiness and the power of having someone else listen and help is a strong message for young readers. Like a favorite teacher or mentor, they may not be around forever, just for a short but meaningful time.

What I like about this story:

My Story Friend is beautifully written in free verse by poet Kalli Dakos. Her gentle and compelling storytelling will capture the hearts of readers of all ages. Kids will cheer for the boy when he finds the old woman who will let him unload his burden. When the old woman patiently listens, the boy gains some of his own insights about himself. Dream Chen’s textured illustrations are colorful and emotive and perfectly suit the boy’s journey.

Everyone has a story to tell, whether it is sad, joyful, or humorous. Everyone needs to have someone to listen. Dakos’s story encourages  children to listen with empathy and compassion when their friends and siblings need to talk. And it also encourages readers to seek out a trusting friend or tteacher if they want to share something that is troubling them. 

Favorite quote: “We talked all afternoon, and I learned that when we tell our stories over and over again to someone who listens with a big heart, then our stories become softer like butter melting in the sun, and if we are really lucky, the story tells us what to do.”

Resources: This is a perfect classroom book. Encourage children to write about their own lives. Sharing is up to them. But, pairing kids with a buddy might work well. It is also an excellent book for parents to use if they think their child is being bullied or is troubled about something. The book will guide discussions.

Kalli Dakos is a children’s poet and educator. She visits schools across the United States and Canada to encourage children and teacher to write about their own lives. She has written many collections of school poems that include six ILA?CBC Children’s Choice selections, such as If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand, and They Only See the Outside. She lives in Ottawa Canada, and has an office in Ogedensburg, NY.  Visit her Dakos at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.