Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems by Nick Cannon
Published by Scholastic, March 2015. Hardcover of 142 pages at $14.99.
The cover: A huge neon bright green four eyed alien opens its mouth to devour readers. Above the creature’s head is the author’s name, while within its massive maw is the title of this collection, complete with UFO shooting a beam of light onto the third through fifth words of the title. This is an eye catching cover, to be sure. I would stop at look at this even if I had no children. The illustration is by Captain Kris, with the lettering by Queen Andrea. The cover is much more striking than the pale scan I have for this review. Really well done. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover, “With humor and heart, Nick Cannon–entertainer extraordinaire–has created a truly modern poetry collection. Join Cannon as he rhymes his way through a world filled with fantastical robots and dinosaurs, mean lunch ladies, terrifying babysitters, and a vegetarian who’s had one too many bowls of beans. Also included are several tributes to his family members, several children he’s met on his travels, poet Shel Silverstein, and hip-hop icons.” Using Silverstein’s name is a good way to entice older readers to check this out for children and is a good reference, as Cannon cites him as one of his influences. All of the stated characters are individuals or creatures children of any age can relate to. Overall grade: B+
The poems: I was skeptical beginning this collection, but this is perfect reading for children. The first poem is “Remembering Shel” and it’s a very heartfelt poem of thanks for the inspiration that he provided to Cannon. The collection’s title poem comes next and it’s a funny tale of a boy trying to explain his missing homework. The ending is perfect. “The Gabulous Gazzoor” is very much in the ilk of Dr. Seuss, and is about a robot that all should want. After this the poems jump among the inspirational (“Postive vs. Negative”), the gross (“Farts or Burps”), the reverent (“Super Mom”), and the silly (“Ugly Sweater Party”). It’s a nice mix of genres, with something for everyone. Not keen on one poem, don’t worry–there are more to come. No poem goes longer than two pages, so little ones’ focus won’t ever be lost. “Daddy’s Shoes” hit me the hardest. That’s impressive work, considering I’m not the audience. Overall grade: A
The art: Including Cannon, there are eight artists on this book, with some being much better than others. Cannon is using a computer to illustrate a few select poems and it looks like it came out of the 1980s. Art Mobb‘s work is very impressive, resembling the slick work of advertisement illustrations. The illustrations done by caliFAWNia look hurriedly drawn, and weren’t among my favorites. Captain Kris‘s artwork resembles the classic look of underground art from the 1960s and 1970s and would fit in well in any publication. Very thick linework is done by MAST and came off as unpolished. Mike P‘s contributions look best when going for caricature, but otherwise don’t work. The most polished looking art in the book comes from Morf, who looks as though he could illustrate anything well. Titles are Queen Andrea‘s forte and she excels at them. Her contributions are creative fonts for the poems which are beautiful. Like the poems, the art is a mixed bag, though much more hit and miss. Overall grade: B-
The final line: Highly entertaining poems for young ones with art that hits and misses. This would be a good way to interest someone in learning to read and most of the visuals will spur imaginations. Overall grade: B+