Sunday, March 22, 2009

Traction Man Meets Turbodog

Kirkus Review starred (August 15, 2008)
Anyone who has read Traction Man Is Here (2005) knows that the toy action-figure's beloved pet Scrubbing Brush could never, ever be replaced by the battery-operated "generic robotic hound" Turbodog™. No, Traction Man needs Scrubbing Brush. Turbodog can't even cross the wastes of the Sandpit without gumming up his works or sneak up on Tiddles the cat without blurting "STOP INTRUDER!" Where is Scrubbing Brush, anyway? The muck-ridden brush has been jettisoned into the Dark and Terrible Underworld of the Bin, from whence nothing has ever returned alive. Traction Man, hearing a cry from said Bin, braves angry fries and spaghetti with eyes ("Ssssstay with usssss") to save him. "No one smothers my brave pet with vegetable peel!" Traction Man proclaims protectively, and almost everyone lives happily ever after. Comic-book-style frames with captions on torn-out bits of graph paper can only loosely contain the ebulliently superheroic adventures of one boy's toys. Hilarious details lurk throughout, and readers won't want to miss even one. (Picture book. 6-9)

The Runaway Dolls

School Library Journal (October 1, 2008)
Gr 3-5-A mysterious package addressed to Grandma Palmer's grandfather arrives at the Palmer home while they are on vacation. Kate's doll, Annabelle, and her sister's doll, Tiffany Funcraft, deduce that the package contains the Doll family's missing baby. They open the package to find that Matilda is indeed Annabelle's lost sister. But how do they keep the family from sending her back? Since the package is not addressed to the Palmers, they might not open it, and the baby will be lost forever. Annabelle decides the only solution is to run away with her new sibling to save her from this fate. Annabelle, her brother Bobby, Tiffany, and her brother Bailey join the adventure and find themselves lost in the woods and then trapped in a toy store. The adventure takes a dangerous and mysterious turn when dolls begin to disappear from the store each night. The story opens with Selznick's 12-page illustrated, wordless prologue, and his art moves the story along throughout the book. This fun, magical entry in the series is just as engaging as the previous books.-Debra Banna, Sharon Public Library, MA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.


Horn Book (November/December, 2008)
As in Broach's earlier novel Shakespeare's Secret, high art, deep intrigue, and warm friendship converge. James's eleventh birthday party is such a depressing affair that Marvin, an extroverted kitchen beetle, can't resist secretly making him a present. The elegant miniature cityscape he draws (with two front legs dipped in ink) is mistaken for James's work, leading the boy and the beetle to form an unlikely (and, on the beetle's part, silent) friendship. Soon the two visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a show of Albrecht Durer -- whose work Marvin's drawing resembles to an astonishing degree -- and become embroiled in the world of art forgery and theft. Echoes of Selden's Cricket in Times Square, Norton's The Borrowers, Balliett's Chasing Vermeer, and the inimitable E. B. White's Charlotte's Web sound throughout; the derring-do adventures and ethical conundrums the two protagonists face grow organically from a remarkable friendship and make for an engrossing story.

The Hinky-Pink

School Library Journal (August 1, 2008)
Gr 2-4-Anabel is a seamstress in Old Italy who dreams of making a dress worthy of a princess. Isabella Caramella Gorgonzola is a princess who gives the girl one week to make her a dress worthy of the Butterfly Ball. Locked in the tower sewing room, Anabel finds the finest silk, chiffon, and crepe as well as gold scissors, thread that is clear as glass, and a silver thimble. Unfortunately, she also shares the room with a Hinky-Pink that pinches her at night, steals her covers, and makes sleep impossible. When Anabel is "chill as a fish and can't sew a stitch," the nursemaid advises her to make the Hinky-Pink a bed of its own. After many unsuccessful attempts, Anabel fashions a tiny bed from her silver thimble, and the Hinky-Pink hums happily. Having slept "the sleep of a princess without a pea," she sews the perfect dress in a single day. Illustrations are done in watercolor and ink and feature a warm palette of rose, peach, and gold tones. Actual landmarks are used to make Firenze come alive, while Italian words and phrases are scattered throughout, sometimes placed in speech bubbles. McDonald's flawless storytelling melds with Floca's joyous art, bringing new life to Margery Bailey's "The Bed Just So" from Whistle for Good Fortune (Little, Brown, 1948). Girls who love princess stories will adore this lively tale.-Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Greetings from Nowhere

Kirkus Review (February 1, 2008)
The lives of four families change when they intersect at a run-down motel in the middle of nowhere. For years Aggie and her late husband operated the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Alone now and facing a drawer of unpaid bills and endless repairs on the dilapidated motel, Aggie reluctantly puts a "For Sale" ad in the paper. Eager for a new life since his wife left, Clyde makes an offer on the motel and uproots his lonely daughter Willow to the Sleepy Time. A troubled kid, Kirby and his mom are en route to a special boys' school when their car breaks down and they show up at the motel. Filled with questions about her birth mother who has recently died, Loretta and her adoptive parents arrive at the Sleepy Time on a family vacation. As these unlikely folks come together in Aggie's tumbledown motel, they find something they need through the friendships that form. O'Connor artfully weaves together the hopes, fears, disappointments, sorrows and joys of her multi-generational cast to produce a warm and satisfying conclusion. (Fiction. 10-14)

First The Egg

Kirkus Review starred (September 1, 2007)
A deceptively simple, decidedly playful sequence of statements invites readers to ponder, what comes first: the chicken or the egg? Carefully choreographed page turns and die-cuts focus on the process of change and becoming, so "First" sits alone on a yellow background, facing "the EGG"--an egg-shaped die-cut revealing a white egg against an orange-and-brown background. Turn the page, and "then" appears, the egg-shaped die-cut now forming the yellow body of a chick emerging from the shell, facing "the CHICKEN"--the white hen whose body gave color to the previous spread's egg. Tadpole and frog, seed and flower, caterpillar and butterfly all receive the same treatment, then word and story, paint and picture bring all the disparate elements together, nature being the catalyst for art. Seeger's vibrant, textured oil-on-canvas illustrations contain a wealth of subtlety, allowing the die-cuts to reveal cunning surprises with each turn of the page. Children and adults alike will delight in flipping the sturdy pages back and forth to recreate the transformations over and over again. Another perfectly pitched triumph from an emerging master of the concept book. (Picture book. 2-6)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2005)
Gr 1-4-Motham City is abuzz with the kidnapping of Queenie Bee, and Ace Lacewing, the Sam Spade of insects, is on the case. His motto is, "Bad bugs are my business." Lacewing follows the trail of honey with the help of his gal, Doctor Xerces Blue, and Sergeant Zito, a mosquito. A motley (and sometimes molting) assortment of suspects is questioned. Their character traits are based on facts: "The roaches said of course they ran from the scene of the crime-it was their nature to scatter when the lights go on." Puns and wordplay abound: "I've known him ever since we were pupae at the same school"; "The full moon hung in the sky like a large compound eye...." The digitally enhanced illustrations evoke a film noir atmosphere, with moody blue and black backgrounds. The pages are also brimming with humorous details such as glowworm street lamps, "Bug Off" police tape, and "Slow Larvae" road signs. This clever parody of hard-boiled detective stories is sure to tickle readers' thorax.-Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.