Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

Booklist (December 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 7))
Grades 2-5. Two texts run though this unusual book. The first is Kerley’s account of Samuel Clemens’ 13-year-old daughter, Susy, who decides to write her father’s biography in her journal. The second is a series of excerpts from that actual biography, neatly printed in scriptlike font with Susy’s misspellings intact. These entries appear on smaller, folded pages, each marked “JOURNAL,” that are tipped into the gutters of this large-format picture book’s double-page spreads. Though a story about someone writing a book sounds a bit static—and it sometimes is—Kerley manages to bring Susy and her famous father to life using plenty of household anecdotes. With a restrained palette and a fine sense of line, Fotheringham’s stylized, digital illustrations are wonderfully freewheeling, sometimes comical, and as eccentric as Susy’s subject. Appended are author’s notes on Samuel and Susy Clemens, tips on writing a biography, a time line, and source notes for quotes. An original.

The Case of the Lost Boy

Booklist (January 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 9))
Grades 1-3. This first installment in a new trilogy for early readers introduces a dog whose first family went away and never returned. Buddy ended up in the pound, where he was adopted by a boy, Connor, and his mom, who coincidently live in his old neighborhood. Buddy, who enjoyed sleuthing with his original owner, is now trying to solve the mystery of his missing family, a mission he will pursue throughout the series. First, though, he has an immediate problem to solve: Connor has disappeared. Buddy tries to find him, relying on methodical reasoning and unexpected assistance from a cat who can read. The story moves quickly to its obvious conclusion, but unanswered questions will propel readers to the series’ second title. Particularly well drawn are scenes in which Buddy tries to overcome dog-to-human communication obstacles, the numerous distractions of delicious smells, and Connor’s reluctance to love Buddy as he deals with changes in his own life. With twists and turns, humor, and a likable canine character, this series should find a wide fan base.

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

Booklist (October 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 4))
Grades 4-6. Meet Steve Brixton, who lists The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook at the top of the Fifty-nine Greatest Books of All Time, closely followed by the 58 volumes of the Bailey Brothers Mysteries, a Hardy Boys–style series. Steve, an aspiring boy detective, stumbles into a mystery involving the Maguffin quilt, a priceless artifact hidden by its last guardian before his death and still missing. Playing with the tropes of the Stratemeyer mystery series, the book provides all their action and adventure but adds a level of humor that will sometimes have readers laughing out loud. Similarly, Rex’s illustrations have a mid-twentieth-century look, and in an accomplished, deadpan manner, offer one of the book’s funniest moments. And though librarians usually roll their eyes when a good-guy librarian character appears in a novel, they may find it hard to resist Barnett’s over-the-top portrayal of the profession as an elite undercover force expert in intelligence, counterintelligence, Boolean searching, and hand-to-hand combat. A smart, amusing mystery, this promising first novel is a fine start for the Brixton Brothers series.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Crispin The End of Time

Horn Book (July/August, 2010)
Prolific storyteller Avi revisits the hero of his Newbery Medal winner, and this final volume in the Crispin trilogy showcases the same strengths as the earlier books: brisk, suspenseful narrative with effortlessly interwoven details of medieval life and provocative questions of ethics and morality. With their mentor, Bear, now dead, Crispin and Troth are left to make their way to Iceland, a place reportedly free from much of the strife of England and France. But when Troth's skill with herbs finds her a home in a convent, Crispin must journey on alone. He joins a family of traveling musicians purportedly on their way to perform at a wedding in the port city of Calais. It's a comfort to him that they speak his native language, but when their true natures as murderers, thieves, and kidnappers are revealed, Crispin must pull off a daring plan in order to escape them. It's another rousing page-turner, and it's sure to please fans of the series, who may also enjoy Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy and Nancy Farmer's Sea of Trolls trilogy.

The Boys

Kirkus Review starred (February 15, 2010)
It's a new town for a baseball-loving protagonist. Newman wastes not a moment, setting the stage with the title page: A lone moving truck chugs along a house-lined street, skyscrapers looming above. A white spread possessing only one word, "Tuesday," greets readers, with single brush strokes and blocks of color denoting a glove, a ball, a bat and a solitary boy lacing up his shoes. But the anticipated game is not to be, as the shy hero watches the sport longingly from afar. Crestfallen, he sits by a set of elderly men, and baseball dreams are traded for books, then costumes, as the child determinedly tries to stay on the bench of retirees--until the old-timers' ball game reawakens the boy's confidence. Effective visual storytelling realizes the aching love players can feel for the game, and in one lovely, lonely beat, the boy's self-imposed rejection turns to resolve, as the tyke asks to join in a kids' game. Through confident brushwork, done in a stylized '50s modern aesthetic, the artist's images reveal sports' deep truths about acceptance, a willingness to try and the intergenerational connections they bring. (Picture book. 4-8)

Big Nate in a Class All By Himself

Booklist (March 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 13))
Grades 3-6. Unabashedly capitalizing on the Wimpy Kid wave (with a Jeff Kinney blurb-recommendation splashed across the cover), Peirce’s book, for a slightly younger audience, uses a mix of prose and cartoons to tell a quick story about a day in the life of an extroverted, impish kid. Peirce does have comics cred on his side: his hero, Nate, has been the star of a long-running daily comic strip. He is the classic clever kid who hates school and whose antics land him in ever-hotter water with grumbly teachers. On this particular day, he wakes up feeling fine, sweats a bit about an upcoming test, then opens a fortune cookie at school that reads, “Today you will surpass all others.” So, he dutifully goes about trying to best other kids at everything but seems to only have a knack for racking up detention slips. The cartoons provide plenty of gags at the expense of various adults and classmates, and Nate’s persistent good cheer and moxie make him a likable new proxy for young misfits.

Ball Hog

Booklist (May 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 18))
Grades 2-4. Like his friend and Bobcat teammate Erin, Ben has never played soccer before, but he enjoys the practices and learns fast. However, he doesn’t enjoy playing with Mark, whose big mouth and inflated ego make him easy to dislike. Their animosity spills over onto the four-square court at recess before they begin to see the value of passing in soccer and (no coincidence) the Bobcats begin to score goals. A good sports story for younger readers, this beginning chapter book balances bits of information about playing the game with realistic scenes on the field, at home, and at school. An effective subplot portrays Ben’s shifting emotions and ethical dilemma after a friend is excluded from their regular four-square group. Beginning with tiny portraits of the team roster, lively black-and-white drawings illustrate the story. The book concludes with advice on practicing and playing the game in “Ben’s Top Tips for Soccer Players.” A promising start for the Kickers series.

The All-American Jump and Jive Jig

Booklist (April 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 16))
Grades K-2. In this dance-crazy picture book, the Rockland Sock-Hop is a hit in Maine; across the Plains, they’re doing the Midwest Wiggle; and every kid in Alaska knows the Juneau Jitterbug. Bouncy rhymes lead young readers through the states and regions of America and describe their local dances, such as the D.C. Freeze (“While the music’s playing, dance as silly as you choose. When you hear the music stop, stand still like a statue”). Equally energetic is the bright pencil-and-watercolor artwork featuring cartoon-style children. Many illustrations offer details about the regions, from the dock where boys are practicing the Mackinac Milk Shake to the city skyline behind children performing the Brooklyn Boogie, while endpapers sport the highlighted dances across a map of the U.S. The conclusion invites readers to invent new dances from their own locales. Read this after Laurie Keller’s Scrambled States of America (1998) to get students moving as they continue the geography fun.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thanking the Moon

Kirkus Review (September 1, 2010)
Opposing the exuberant energy found by this same Chinese-American family in Bringing in the New Year (2008), the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is a much more contemplative and quiet observance. The story begins on the title page, the family in their car driving toward the moon. There is a hush as they admire the moon in the sky. Then everyone does their part to help set up the nighttime picnic. The moon-honoring table is arranged, sweet mooncakes are eaten and rounded cups of tea are carefully poured. Children then parade with bright paper lanterns, and everyone sends a secret, unspoken wish up to the moon. Not all is solemnity: "Mei-Mei plays with the pale green pomelo peel," as Ma-Ma chuckles. A gentle text and Lin's rounded art style with her signature night-sky swirls lend themselves nicely to the moon symbolism that is so very important to this celebration. An endnote further describes the festival, emphasizing families coming together, just like the moon returning to its fullness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Shark vs. Train

Booklist (April 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 16))
Preschool-Grade 1. Maybe they haven’t pitted this exact pair against one another, but there’s little doubting young boys’ ability to spend hours and considerable blocks of imagination smashing different toys together in a knock-down, drag-out battle royale for romper-room supremacy. The opening spread shows two boys digging through a toy box, each pulling out a fearsome competitor. In this corner, there’s Shark (I’m going to choo-choo you up and spit you out); and in the other, Train (Ha! I’m going to fin-ish you, mackerel-breath). The bout gets progressively more ridiculous with each escalating shift in setting and rules. Early rounds in the ocean and on the tracks are split; Shark has the upper hand on the high-dive, and Train in giving carnival rides. Neither turns out to be much good at the Extreme Zombie-Squirrel Motocross video game (no thumbs) or sword fighting on a tightrope. Barton’s imaginative and wacky scenarios are knocked home by Lichtenheld’s ferociously funny artwork and will leave kids measuring up their dump truck and T-Rex for the next tale of the tape.

Ace Lacewing Bug Detective The Big Swat

School Library Journal (July 1, 2009)
Gr 2-4-Ace Lacewing is back to solve another mystery. Scratch Murphy, the owner of Six Legs Park, is knocked unconscious by a falling toolbox-presumably the property of a disgruntled carpenter ant-and wakes to find his flea bag empty and his money gone. Ace discovers that his client has a lot of enemies, including a fly-by-night roach in the banking business; Scratch's twin brother, Scritch; and a weevil with over-the-top parenting skills. Ace's blue-eyed gal Xerces and Police Sergeant Zito "The Mosquito" are with him every step of the way. When the solution hits Ace "like a flyswatter," a run for the money ensues through the Termite Tower of Terror, Anteater Falls, and House of Mirrors. Ace's first-person narration and snappy dialogue are true to the hard-boiled detective genre, as is the cast of characters. The illustrations, done in pencil and digitally colored, fairly glow. The many insect references ("Flypaper Awareness Week" and "Keep Your Antennae and Legs Inside Ride") in the colorful spreads are a true delight. Mystery fans and insect enthusiasts will enjoy a one-on-one reading with plenty of time to savor the clever wordplay and insect-related details. They will also want to find Ace's first adventure, Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective (Charlesbridge, 2005).-Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Noonie's Masterpiece

Booklist (May 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 17))
Grades 3-5. Fourth-grader Noonie Norton, a self-described “brilliant artist,” is just moving from her blue period (which began after her mother’s death, four years ago) to her purple period. While her archaeologist father travels the world, she lives with Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Ralph, and cousin Junior. Navigating her fourth-grade year with help from her loyal friend Reno and her art teacher, Noonie struggles to deal with math, her imperfect family, and her too-perfect classmate Sue Ann. The school art contest becomes a catalyst for change, shifting Noonie’s views on the people in her life and moving her art into a happier, polka-dot period. Noonie may be an unreliable and even unlikable narrator at times, but her pain and vulnerability are as evident as her belief in herself as an artist, and by the end of the story, she’ll have readers in her corner. The ink-and-watercolor illustrations, appearing throughout the book, have a 1960s-retro look. Originally written and performed as a play, this is Railsback’s first novel.

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown

Booklist (July 2010 (Online))
Grades 3-5. Elementary-schoolers Dee, Hector, and Terrence go to a sleepaway camp where the supersleuth Lunch Lady from their school happens to be working her off-season. At camp, the prepubescent boys and girls behave with developmentally appropriate lapses in social niceties: the boys crack jokes about farts, while Dee really doesn’t get why the other girls have crushes on the cute male counselors. Lunch Lady and her assistant, meanwhile, utilize imaginative foodie tech to battle the mysterious Scum Monster, including Taco-vision night goggles worn to their Salisbury stakeout. Krosoczka’s inventive visual details, spot-on characterizations, and grade-school humor make this a standout graphic-novel series.

Ling & Ting Not Exactly the Same!

Booklist starred (May 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 17))
Grades 1-2. Sisters Ling and Ting may be twins, but that doesn’t mean they’re “exactly the same,” no matter what everyone says upon first meeting them. Children will come to their own conclusions after reading the six short, interconnected stories that make up this pleasing book for beginning readers. In the first chapter, “The Haircuts,” Ling sneezes while her bangs are being cut, and for a while at least, it’s easy to tell the twins apart. The chapters that follow reveal distinct differences in the sisters’ personalities, inclinations, and abilities. Despite those differences, in the end each girl subtly affirms her affection for the other. Framed with narrow borders, the paintings illustrate the stories with restrained lines, vivid colors, and clarity. The chapters often end with mildly humorous turns, from a neat play on words to a smack-your-heard obvious solution to an apparently impossible dilemma. These endings, as well as bits of comic byplay that occur in the brief framework vignettes, will suit the target audience beautifully. Lin, whose previous books include Dim Sum for Everyone (2001) and the 2010 Newbery Honor Book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009), shows her versatility once again in an original book that tells its story clearly while leaving room for thought and discussion.

Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol

Booklist starred (May 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. A brilliant, hard-nosed, and dedicated cop for being only 13 years old, Griff Carver grimly fights the good fight as a member of his new school’s Safety Patrol in this inspired, expertly spun tale. Rampart Middle School may have a shiny reputation, but, as new transfer Griff quickly discovers, it’s rotten from the principal on down. Even Delane, the patrol’s captain, is in the back pocket of flashy arch-villain and class-president-candidate Marcus Volger. Picking up allies who see through his flinty exterior—like ace reporter Verity King, bumbling but educable fellow officer Tommy Rodriguez, and Solomon, a savvy old janitor—Griff takes it on the chin more than once but comes out on top in the end, stymied in an effort to nab Volger outright but at least breaking up his counterfeit hall-pass operation in a spectacularly destructive climax. Pitch perfect from start to finish (“The donuts tasted like papier-mache, only less sweet and harder to chew”) veteran TV writer Krieg’s fiction debut will have even the most hardboiled whodunit fans rolling in the aisles. Expect sequels, and hope they come soon.

Bedtime for Mommy

Booklist (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12))
Preschool-Kindergarten. Eschewing the typical scenario of readying children for bed, Rosenthal tickles toddlers’ funny bones with a role-reversal tale in which the child gets Mommy ready for bed. Working at her computer, papers askew, a harried and bespectacled mom pleads for five more minutes. Wearing a self-satisfied smile, the freckled child times her and then pushes her up the stairs to her bath. Pham cleverly submerges Mom in a bubble bath while the determined child scrubs her toes. Mom then gives thumbs-down to several attempts at picking tomorrow’s outfit, exuberantly bounces into bed, bargains unsuccessfully for two books tonight (they curl up with Anna Karenina), and begs for a glass of water. Watching the clocks will provide added amusement (it takes one hour to get Mom tucked in, and then it’s Dad’s turn). With the entire text in speech bubbles and humorous, uncluttered watercolor paintings surrounded by lots of white space, this switcheroo book is a perfect bedtime choice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

City Dog, Country Frog

Booklist starred (March 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 14))
Preschool-Grade 2. The book begins in spring. City Dog comes to the country, thrilled to run without a leash. Something stops him—Country Frog. Frog’s waiting for a friend: “But you’ll do.” After that the duo plays together, and Frog teaches Dog about splashing and croaking. In the summer, City Dog returns and runs to see Frog. Now it’s his turn to teach Frog games, replete with sniffing, fetching, and barking. In the fall, Country Frog is tired. “Maybe we can play remembering games.” And that’s what they do, remembering jumping and splashing, sniffing and barking. In the winter, snow is everywhere, but Frog is gone. When spring returns, a chipmunk comes across City Dog. “What are you doing?” she asks. City Dog replies sadly, “Waiting for a friend.” Then he smiles a “froggy” smile and adds, “But you’ll do.” It’s hard to imagine a picture book that more consistently (and touchingly) hits all the right notes. Willems, never one to overwrite, is gracefully spare here, making every word count. That leaves room for Muth’s watercolors, richly seasonal, which fill each page. The pictures are imbued with hope and happiness, leaving and longing. This wonderful collaboration makes a significant impact with subtlety and wit. Adults and children will each take away something of their own.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

Grades 4-8. Feisty Meggy, sent from her mother’s village to live in London with the father she has never known, struggles with his evident disappointment when they meet. Not only lame, she is not the son he had expected. Initially, Meggy finds the city a horrible place, but slowly she begins to change her mind after making a few friends and helping her father a little with his alchemy work. When she learns that he has sold arsenic to men who intend to poison their master, she frantically seeks a way to save both the man from his murderers and her father from the law. An author’s note discusses the Elizabethan era, including its language, the publication of broadsides, the practice of alchemy, and lingering medieval attitudes toward disabled people. Because so many historical novels set in this period feature girls of royal or noble lineage, it’s bracing to meet Meg, who empties her own chamber pot into the ditch outside her door and trades strings of creative Elizabethan insults with Roger, her best friend. Writing with admirable economy and a lively ability to re-create the past believably, Cushman creates a memorable portrayal of a troubled, rather mulish girl who begins to use her strong will in positive ways.

The Eraserheads

Booklist (January 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 9))
Preschool-Grade 2. The creators of Max’s Words (2006) and Max’s Dragon (2008) collaborate again in this picture-book fantasy that begins in a very mundane, everyday setting: at a desk where a boy struggles with his homework. Three expressive, animal-shaped erasers help by rubbing out mistakes: a crocodile, who is “good with numbers”; an owl, who likes letters and words; and a pig with a big appetite, who will erase “just about anything.” The wild adventures begin when the boy ditches his lessons and begins to draw, and the erasers find themselves whisked perilously through each imagined world. They’re nearly drowned by a tidal wave from a beach scene and chased by wild animals until the crocodile, with some strategic erasing, sends a message to the boy, who sketches a boat and floats the gang safely in a calm sea. Banks folds reassuring messages about mistakes into this inventively illustrated title that, like David Wiesner’s Three Pigs (2001) and Mordicai Gerstein’s A Book (2009), plays with conventional story borders and may inspire kids to sail off on their own imagined escapades.

Big Kicks

Booklist starred (September 1, 2008 (Vol. 105, No. 1))
Preschool-Grade 3. Biggie Bear is something of a loner whose life is centered around his love of jazz and his stamp collecting. But the quiet is interrupted when a local soccer team knocks at his door. Fluff the Duck, Smelly Smell Skunk, et al., are looking for a new team member: a big one. They need someone with a big kick, someone big and brave, someone with a big brain. We need someone who doesn’t stink, says Smelly. Biggie demurs. He has never played before. However, with assurances that he is big and the ball is little, Biggie gives it a go. It doesn’t go very well. An amusing two-page spread shows Biggie all over the field as he tries to kick and stop the ball. It’s only after he sees a stamp on the ground, stops to pick it up, and the ball bounces off his head to the goal, that success is assured. A very strong story combines with delightful digital artwork that is vibrant without being garish and simple without being simplistic. In fact, there is so much to see in each spread (to say nothing of the varied and clever stamp-filled endpapers) that kids will continue looking this over after the first couple of reads. This also has a great message about being yourself yet still finding ways to fit in.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer

Booklist (March 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 14))
Grades K-3. Magnus Maximus, an old gentleman in Victorian England, spends his days measuring and counting everything. His neighbors view him as simply “a marvelous measurer” until he encounters an escaped circus lion. He orders the lion to sit, measures his tale and whiskers, counts his fleas and heartbeats, and finally relinquishes the beast to his keeper. Magnus becomes increasingly obsessed with measuring and counting; after breaking his glasses, he cannot see to do so. A young boy leads him to enjoy the world without measuring its parts, a lesson that has a good, lasting effect. Handsome ink-and-watercolor illustrations portray Magnus Maximus and his neighbors with individuality and occasional wry humor. The period setting is convincing in every detail. While the story’s lesson may seem oddly placed in a picture book for children, there’s plenty for them to enjoy in this well-written original tale of a (literally and figuratively) shortsighted, elderly eccentric.

Here Comes The Garbage Barge!

Kirkus Review starred (January 15, 2010)
A stinky story never seemed so sweet. Winter tackles the true-life tale of the 1987 Garbage Barge fiasco in this entirely amusing mix of fact and fiction. When the city of Islip on Long Island ends up with too much garbage, some businessmen (merged into a single character here named Gino Stroffolino) decide the best solution is to ship it to a distant Southern contact. Trouble arises when the barge and stalwart Cap'm Duffy St. Pierre find themselves turned away at every port. From North Carolina to Mexico, from New Orleans to Belize, nobody wants the garbage--all 3,168 tons of it. The author has fun with this story, and his jovial tall-tale tone is well complemented by the eye-popping clay models provided by Red Nose Studio. The garbage in this book doesn't just stink--it oozes and melts in the hot summer sun. A fantastic combination of text and image, this is sure to give the barge and story the infamy they deserve for a generation far too young to recall either the actual incident or the bad old days before we all recycled. (Picture book. 4-8)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Benjamin Pratt and teh Keepers of the School We the Children

Booklist (March 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 14))
Grades 4-6. This first novel in the new Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series centers on young Benjamin’s efforts to save his historic elementary school from amusement-park developers. The school was founded in the late eighteenth century by an eccentric sea captain, Duncan Oaks. In their attempt to save the school, Benjamin and his friend Jill uncover a long string of clues and discover that the school’s janitor is not as innocent as he appears. Jill and Benjamin have still not fit together all the missing pieces toward the end of the story, when Clements sends Benjamin on an exciting side trip to a sailing regatta, where he competes and saves a fellow racer. Several other youth novels feature kids facing off against greedy, nefarious developers. What sets this title apart is the skillful way that Clements conveys Benjamin’s growing appreciation of his seaside hometown’s landscape and history. Readers will look forward to finding out how the disparate clues come together in coming installments.

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop

Booklist (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12))
Grades K-3. This adaptation of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale “The Bremen Town Musicians” will provoke both groans and guffaws. Determined to be a comedian, Hen escapes from her farm and is soon joined in her journey by a dog, a cat, and a cow, all united in their dream to open a comedy club. On the road, they encounter a group of robbers hiding out in an old house, and faced with an audience, the animals instinctually launch into their routines. The bad guys, though, hear only frightening moos and barks instead of comedic shtick and flee, leaving behind their house—the perfect spot for the animals to realize their club aspirations. The nonstop comedic wordplay and puns are even more hilarious than those in O’Malley’s Gimme Cracked Corn & I Will Share (2007), with which this shares not only a funny bone but also a distinctive, attractive style of watercolor, ink, and PhotoShop art. With a high joke-per-page ratio, this is, as Hen would say, an “udderly” “egg-straordinary” “bawk.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Granny Gomez and Jigsaw

Booklist (January 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 9))
Preschool-Grade 2. Granny Gomez loves her big country house—there’s room for everything, from drums to jigsaw puzzles. Though she is sometimes lonely, a pet piglet is not what she had in mind for company. Yet soon Granny and pig are watching cooking shows together and even doing puzzles (hence Jigsaw’s name). As their friendship grows, so does Jigsaw, and he soon gets stuck in cabinets and in Granny’s bass drum, and he is eventually too big to push up the stairs. So Granny Gomez builds a barn that’s perfect for Jigsaw—including a big-screen TV, puzzle shelves, and a kitchen. But that night, in their respective abodes, each realizes something’s missing, and after some thinking, Granny finds a solution, bringing a happy resolution—and reunion. Descriptive, peppy text and colorful art expressively depict spirited, gray-bunned Granny and her personality-laden porcine pal. With folksy charm and witty details, this amusing story will make for read-aloud fun, providing a warm portrayal of pets as beloved companions, however little or big.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

Booklist (January 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 9))
Grades 4-6. Sixth-graders Ruthie and her best friend, Jack, are on a class visit to Chicago’s Art Institute, where they see the famous Thorne Rooms. Filled with incredible miniatures, the rooms, representing different time periods, fascinate Ruthie. When she finds a key that shrinks her and allows her to get inside the rooms, Ruthie wants to return as soon as possible. Jack is a willing partner, and when a way is found to shrink him, too, the adventure really begins. First-time novelist Malone carefully crafts a fantastical story with plenty of real-world elements, including Jack’s mother’s worries as she tries to make a living as an artist and the subplot of a museum security guard, who has lost something important. Jack and Ruthie find it in the rooms, which tie the past and present together. There are contrivances that make accessibility to the adventures possible, but readers will focus on the mystery, the history, and the excitement of being small.

Chester's Masterpiece

Kirkus Review starred (January 15, 2010)
Chester, Canadian cat author extraordinaire, is back for a third self-aggrandizing volume without any help from Mélanie Watt. He has hidden her art supplies AND her computer mouse (which apparently tastes like chicken). He is in full control of this outing...unfortunately, she's found a pencil and some Post-it notes. Even though he tries to tell his story, she keeps interrupting to ask for her stuff back, while Mouse (who looks suspiciously like the human author) just keeps kibitzing. Still, Chester manages to tell the tale of Supercat saving the world from Dr. Meanmouse and one about Captain Cat surviving a whale attack, unlike poor Skipper Mouse. But then the unthinkable occurs: Chester's marker runs out of ink. Watt's chunky puss with delusions of grandeur (and writing skill) helms a sorta-meta-adventure sure to delight his fans. Chester appears in full watercolor while his own "illustrations" are in his trademark red marker. There are plenty of giggles along the way, and the author's revenge (not to mention Chester's hiding place for her supplies) will elicit gales of laughter. A must purchase, especially where the first two are loved. (Picture book. 4-8)

Cat the Cat Who is That?

Booklist (March 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 14))
Preschool-Grade 1. Along with Let’s Say Hi to Friends Who Fly (2010), this upbeat title introduces young children to a new cast of animal pals. In large, bold type well-suited for brand-new readers, a narrator asks the title’s question as winsome Cat the Cat, in a sporty purple dress, says hello to her friends, whose greetings, printed in speech balloons, give a little glimpse into each new character’s personality. Mouse the Mouse is straightforward (“Hello there!”), Duck the Duck is a bit formal (“A pleasure, as always!”), and Fish the Fish is surfer-cool (“Hey, dude!”). Then Cat the Cat runs into a many-armed alien, who is busily building a tower of blocks, and the text’s easy, back-and-forth rhythm screeches to a halt: “Cat the Cat, who is THAT?” asks the narrator. “I have no idea,” is Cat’s wary answer, until she recognizes the adorable stranger as “a NEW friend!” Once again, Willems avoids heavy messages and walks right into kids’ daily lives with this exuberant, clean-lined, animation-ready title that’s sure to widen his already vast fan base.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


School Library Journal (March 1, 2010)
PreS-Gr 1-Dogs, like dinosaurs, are a surefire draw for young children, and this eponymously named picture book is bound to delight canine lovers. On the cover, a large, winsomely drawn hound, leash in mouth and begging to go out, irresistibly invites young readers to pick up the book and start turning the pages. In minimal, rhyming text, an unidentified narrator describes its favorite kinds of dogs-big, small, stripy, spotty, tough, and soft-and, along the way, offers a subtle lesson in the meaning of opposites. Expressive pencil drawings, overlaid with soft washes of watercolor on creamy stock, waggishly animate more than a dozen varieties of dogs, including an enormous, protective Great Dane; a soft and squishy bichon frise; and an energetic Dalmatian. (The endpapers identify the types of dogs portrayed.) The surprise ending reveals the identity of the narrator-a cat, which qualifies "favorite" as any hound that doesn't chase it. The pacing of the simple text and scale of the drawings lend this title equally well to preschool storytimes, lap-sharing, and emerging-reader fans of Biscuit and Dog and Bear. A winner.-Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Cloud Tea Monkeys

Kirkus Review starred (February 15, 2010)
Tea, labor-intensive to harvest, is a precious commodity, but wild-growing cloud tea, found only in the highest, dangerous-to-reach mountaintops, is the most prized of all in this lyrical story based on a Chinese folktale. Readers are transported to an unnamed past and place (identified in the author's note as the Himalayan region) where Tashi's mother becomes too sick to pick tea, and Tashi and her "cloud tea monkeys" save the day. The poetic text is vividly descriptive: "...a light the color of lemons was soaking into the sky and painting out the stars." The deftly spun, emotionally resonant fairy-tale story--with its repulsive, mean plantation Overseer and at-first-intimidating Royal Tea Taster, who delights in Tashi's impossible harvest--begs to be read aloud. No design detail is overlooked, from the gorgeous cover (and its glossy, raised, curling, monkey-shaped tea steam) forward. Wijngaard's elegant, exquisitely etched gouache-and-ink illustrations of both characters and landscapes are splashed across spreads or framed on cream-colored paper with subtle geometric borders. Unlike cloud tea, an accessible treasure. (authors' note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Aunt Mary's Rose

Kirkus Review (February 15, 2010)
A nostalgic trip through one family's history centers around a hardy rose bush and Douglas, the little boy who is learning to care for it. Aunt Mary says the rose bush in her backyard has been in her family since before she was born. She cared for it just as her father asked her to, even uprooting and replanting it when the Depression forced them to move. Told through the sure, even voice of Aunt Mary, who raised her nephews Dick and Jim, Douglas's father ("That's what families do. They take care of each other"), Wood's tender memoir paints a picture of one family through the generations. Pham's sepia-toned colored watercolors, often painted to look like old-time photographs, extend the nostalgic feel and burst into full color when the story reaches Douglas's childhood in what appears to be the '50s. (Botanists will note that the shrub depicted is not the rugosa mentioned in the author's jacket bio but an actual rose, likely to be more universally recognized by children.) Children will enjoy asking their grandparents about their lives after reading about Douglas's extended family. A gentle slice of the past. (Picture book. 4-8)

All Star! Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever

School Library Journal (March 1, 2010)
Gr 2-5-This smartly crafted picture-book biography brings to life the Hall of Famer whose rare baseball card sold for three million dollars at a 2007 auction. Honus Wagner played for more than 20 seasons, most with the Pittsburgh Pirates; today he is recognized as one of the greatest shortstops ever. Born in 1874 to hardworking German immigrants, he lived in a hardscrabble suburb of Pittsburgh, whose skies were darkened by smoke from the city's many steel and iron mills. After sixth grade, Wagner and his brothers followed their father into the coal mines, where "he worked loading two tons of coal a day for 79 cents." Baseball offered a way out of the mines, and Wagner's natural talent and work ethic won acclaim throughout his career. With a storyteller's voice, Yolen's prose depicts the homely, bow-legged athlete: "it was said he could tie his shoes without bending over." Together with Burke's masterfully composed oil paintings, Yolen limns the athlete's strength of character whether in protecting an umpire from an unruly crowd or teaching his beloved daughters to play the game he loved so much. Another delightful oversize illustration finds Wagner awkwardly posed in a photographer's studio, his huge fielder's glove on his knee, as a group of young fans gather outside. Yolen and Burke have created an affectionate tribute to a baseball great and his times.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Booklist (September 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. In the Newbery Honor-winning Al Capone Does My Shirts (2004), 12-year-old Moose Flanagan, who lives on Alcatraz in 1935, appeals to inmate 85 to get his autistic sister, Natalie, into a special school. In this follow-up, it’s payback time. “Scarface,” whom Moose finally meets, is much more present here, and it turns out that Natalie’s benefactor (the famous gangster) wasn’t just being a nice guy when he offered his help. He expected favors in return, and now, Natalie is an unsuspecting, potential accomplice in a dramatic prisoner escape attempt. One of Choldenko’s many strengths is her grasp of the historically accurate language and setting, and she discusses where she exercised her artistic license in an author’s note. As life on the Rock goes on, Moose gradually realizes that family and friends are more important than baseball and that grudges rarely come to a good end. An enjoyable, stand-alone sequel.

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

Booklist (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12))
Grades 4-6. For fifth-grader Abbie, being a modern-day witch can be fun, especially when she gets to do primary research for school by time-traveling. It also brings challenges, such as hiding her family’s magical abilities. Life gets more complicated when her new kitten turns out to be 13-year-old Thomas Edison, under enchantment. Soon, Abbie’s regular worries about performing in the school play or preventing her little brother from turning into a wolf and biting his teacher give way to new concerns about how to remove Tom’s spell and return him to his own time. Abbie’s breezy, personable narrative incorporates droll asides and references to Edison’s life and to famous literature, from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter. Her colorfully drawn family includes her physician father, whose attempts at curing dreaded “Witch Flu” add humor and depth. Whether facing familiar issues (fitting in, sibling challenges) or fantastical ones, such as developing and using her magic responsibly, Abbie is an appealing, peppy protagonist who finds that there are “all kinds of magic in the world . . . with or without witchcraft.”

Palazzo Inverso

Booklist (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12))
Grades K-3. Normally, M. C. Escher’s work is the province of eye-candy posters for college freshman, but this picture book, is a nifty homage. Hewing to the Escher method of turning perspective inside out, this invites viewers to follow young Mauk, whose master is building a grand palace. With text running along the bottom of the page, Mauk dashes up and down stairs and around corners, dodging painters dangling from ceilings and walls, until he notices that all sense of direction has become bafflingly unmoored. On the last page, it turns out that Mauk has simply turned the master’s drawing plans around a bit, and the narrative flips over to the top of the page and runs backward through the same set of visuals, this time with an entirely different meaning. Events can be a bit disorienting, but things even out by the end—which is the beginning—and presents another opportunity to spin back through the Möbius strip of the story. An undeniably impressive bit of optical trickery with an even neater narrative flip at the conclusion.

Hattie the Bad

Booklist (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12))
Preschool-Grade 1. Hattie is bad for one simple reason: bad is good—because it’s fun! She has a great time breaking rules, and all the kids want to play with her. But when disapproving parents keep their children away, Hattie develops a radical idea: she will become the perfect child. She soon comes to a new realization, though: good is bad. None of the other kids wants to play with her anymore, particularly since their nagging parents hold them to Hattie’s exemplary standards. There’s only one solution: to be truly, unequivocally BAD. On live television, no less. Combining some of the thrilling mischief of Eloise and the artistic pizzaz of Olivia, Hattie is a no-holds-barred heroine whose rambunctious spirit is well matched by the conversational narrative and splashy, riotous illustrations. Grown-ups might shriek in alarm, but children will enjoy Hattie’s subversive panache.

Bridget's Beret

Booklist starred (February 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 12))
Grades K-2. Lichtenheld’s last successful effort, Duck! Rabbit! (2009), authored by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, was delightful, but more concept than story. Here, he offers a real tale to go along with a clever idea. Bridget loves drawing, but she feels what’s most important to her artistic sense is her black beret. So when the wind blows it away, Bridget is stricken. She puts up posters and files a “Missing Beret” report, but to no avail. Having lost her hat, Bridget also loses her ability to draw. One hysterical spread shows her trying on other hats to see if they inspire. A cowboy hat (“Draw, partner!”). A propeller beanie (“How uplifting”). Nope, she has “artist’s block” (a fine sidebar explains just what that is). When her sister asks Bridget to make signs for her lemonade stand, Bridget agrees to put words on paper, but no pictures. Yet that o in lemonade tempts her to color it yellow and add a leaf. Pretty soon she is drawing signs that pay homage to great artists—she has got her artistic mojo back. And her beret turns up, too. This smart, saucy book, with its spacious cartoon-style art, is both a spur to artistic endeavor and a message about inspiration and hard work. Yet the motivations are cocooned by a crackin’ good tale and tempered by a full-faceted heroine. Tips for readers about creating their own art neatly complete an already strong package that can easily be worked into the curriculum.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Whole Nother Story

Kirkus Review starred (November 15, 2009)
Three children and their inventor dad on the run from government agents, international superspies AND corporate baddies are finally forced to take a stand in this picaresque debut. Thanks largely to warnings from their psychic dog and the ability to pull up stakes in a New York minute, the Cheesemans have managed to keep themselves and father Ethan's nearly complete time machine out of the clutches of squads of bumbling but relentless pursuers since the suspicious death of mother Olivia. Their luck is about to run out, however. Freely mining C.S. Lewis and Lemony Snicket for characters and plot elements, Soup also positively channels Dave Barry for type of humor, comic timing and general style. The result is less pastiche, though, than a grand escapade centered around a close family of smart, helpful, likable characters who run into all sorts of oddball wanderers on the road and show plenty of inner stuff when push comes to shove. Which it does, in a climactic melee marked by violent crashes, numerous minor wounds and a probable segue into a sequel. Great fun. (Fiction. 11-13)

If America Were a Village

Booklist (September 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 1))
Grades 3-6. Using a similar format to that of their best-selling book, If the World Were a Village (2002), Smith and Armstrong return to take a look at the “village” of the U.S. The conceit is this: there are more than 306 million people living in the U.S., a number that’s hard to visualize. So this new America is reinterpreted as a village of 100 people. Who are these people? Where do they come from, what do they believe, and what do they own? These questions are asked and answered in an oversize format that utilizes about one-third of the spread for text and the rest for warm acrylic paintings (though not as skilled as in the previous book) showing American families at work and play. The book is excellent for getting the facts out and for disabusing some common misconceptions. Take, for instance, the picture some have of a nuclear family. In fact, in this virtual village, 20 families have 2 parents, and 7 are single-parent families (with 29 children total); 10 households have just 1 person; and the remaining 14 people live in households of 2 or more unrelated people. There are some interesting comparisons with the rest of the world as well (e.g. we are only fortieth in world life expectancy). Children probably won’t pick this up on their own, but educators will find myriad uses for this well-sourced book, which includes a spread of suggested activities and discussion questions. A whole new way to think about our country.


Booklist starred (December 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 8))
Grades 3-5. Logan knows that “fifth-graders are mean,” so he is determined not to let anyone at school find out about his forgetful, embarrassing grandpa, who has moved in with Logan’s family. What if his classmates spot Grandpa singing nursery rhymes or wandering around naked? Then new student Emily “the Snot” Scott gets ahold of a mortifying picture that Grandpa took of Logan, and she threatens to send it to everyone at school—unless Logan finds out the secret his best friend, Malik, has been keeping. Is Logan a ratfink? Will he give up Malik to save himself from being humiliated? Told with rapid dialogue, this novel’s gripping conflicts about loyalty, betrayal, and kindness are never simplistic, and the standoffs with family, friends, and enemies are realistic and dramatic. Jones shows that in addition to his annoyance, Logan also feels deep affection for Grandpa, who comes up with some great ideas that make Logan popular, as well as sharp insights about why Emily acts mean. Even the ending, in which Logan feels mixed about his revenge against Emily, is subtle. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this novel adds depth and complexity to the usual triumph-over-the-bullies story.

Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders

Booklist (January 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 9))
Grades 2-4. Brash colors, quirky humor, and authentic retellings combine to make this compilation of stories about Pandora, Icarus, Demeter, Hercules, and other stars in the classical-myth canon both brilliant and engaging. Townsend balances text and visually communicated information in a way that few graphic novels for the chapter-book set seem to be able to maintain. The architecture and attire are all ancient world, while touches of contemporary humor don’t come off as overly anachronistic—the punch line to “How many centaurs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” is “None . . . because lightbulbs don’t exist!” Other running gags include stupid sheep and funny taglines at the close of each tale. The lessons of the myths ring true, and their graphic stagings should keep readers, whether familiar with Bulfinch’s classic versions or not, enthusiastically turning the pages.

Yes Day!

Booklist (April 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 15))
Preschool-Grade 1. The word no is ubiquitous in kids’ lives. Rosenthal imagines what it would be like if for just one day adults said yes to everything children asked. The young protagonist poses a series of questions, which are answered in humorous illustrations. “Can I use your hair gel?” the child asks. A flip of the page shows the family posing for a photo with the kid’s hair in spiky triangles. The exuberant cartoon drawings take the child through the day, from pizza for breakfast to picking out junk food at the store to staying up really late. Young readers will pick up on a street sign declaring “No saying no.” The highlight of the book comes from the somber blue endpapers, which feature a monthly calendar that names a litany of days including No Way, Jose Day; Don’t Even Ask Day; and Ixnay Ayday (for pig-latinophiles). Sophisticated and clever, the calendar has a splash of yellow on the last day that proclaims “Yes Day!”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clarence Cochran, A Human Boy

Kirkus Review (March 15, 2009)
Clever reimaginings of classics generally rely on awareness of the originals for at least part of their appeal (and most of their humor). That would seem to spell trouble for this reversal of The Metamorphosis. Still, even kids unfamiliar with Kafka's work are likely to enjoy this tale of a young cockroach whose inexplicable transformation into a tiny human boy enables him to save his family from a dreadful death at the hands of an exterminator. Loizeaux paints an entertaining picture of the slovenly Gilmartin family and the bounty that their kitchen provides to the local cockroach community--until the unthinkable happens, and the family catches sight of them. How Clarence copes with his change, the suspicious distaste of his former friends and the threat that faces them all will capture kids' interest. Clarence's ultimate victory, gained by writing a heartfelt plea to Mrs. Gilmartin, isn't entirely convincing, but readers will be pleased at his success. Wilsdorf's black-and-white drawings amplify the humor of the text while highlighting specific action and amusing details. (Fantasy. 9-12)

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Booklist (September 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 1))
Grades 4-6. Bored with life in Fayette, South Carolina, where the only change is a new daily vocabulary word, Popeye is excited to find a motor home stuck in the roadbed mud. He and Elvis, one of its nomadic inhabitants, set off to find adventure, even if it’s a small one. Discovering a boat with a secret message, they follow the creek into the forbidden woods, not once but several times, until they find the boat's maker, Princess Starletta. While Popeye’s grandmother struggles to get his feckless uncle to help extricate the trailer, the once-fearful boy experiments with being devious and enlarges his world. O’Connor again sets her story in a world of rural poverty and barely functional families, matter-of-factly described. Popeye loves the clutter of the motor home and the chaos of Starletta’s backyard—they provide a lively contrast to his own dreary surroundings—and learns that life can be better with imagination and a friend. With interestingly offbeat characters, a clear narrative arc, and intriguing vocabulary smoothly integrated into the story line, this is a satisfying read.

Yummy Eight Favorite Fairy Tales

Booklist starred (October 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 4))
Preschool-Grade 3. Lucy Cousins, best known for her Maisy picture books, presents eight familiar tales: “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” “The Enormous Turnip,” “Henny Penny,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “The Little Red Hen,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and “The Musicians of Bremen.” A glance at wolf on the book’s jacket, sharp claws and teeth at the ready, will reassure readers that this is no pastel, bowdlerized version of folklore. Yes, a hunter chops off the head of Red Riding Hood’s wolf, but the deed is so matter-of-fact in the telling and so bloodless and cartoon-like in the illustration that children are unlikely to flinch when justice is done. The writing is simple and direct, as befits these traditional tales. Illustrated in Cousins’ signature style, the bold, childlike pictures feature broad strokes of black paint defining the forms of characters and elements of the setting. The scale of the illustrations is so large that their effect might overwhelm a bit when seen at close range. At a little distance, though, their clarity, drama, and energy are evident. Absolutely perfect for the youngest.

Are You a Horse?

Booklist (January 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 9))
Preschool-Grade 2. When cowboy Roy is given a saddle for his birthday, he can’t wait to try it out. Right after he figures out what it’s for. Luckily, it comes with instructions (“1. Find a horse. 2. Enjoy the ride”), but unluckily, Roy doesn’t know what a horse is. So he saunters about asking each creature he meets if it’s a horse. They all tell him why they’re not: horses have legs, explains the snake; a horse is friendly, explains the many-legged crab; a horse can’t change colors, says the friendly chameleon. Roy is just about out of questions when he finally finds something that fits all the requirements, and a horse it turns out to be. The western-styled gouache art is packed with colors and peppered with lighthearted jokes. Much of the visual fun comes from the way each animal has the characteristic Roy has just learned about from the previous encounter, while the text effectively uses negation to keep him looking. Kids will enjoy knowing more than the hapless Roy with the final page showing an extremely unexpected horsy ride.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Thirteenth Princess

Publishers Weekly (January 18, 2010)
Reworking the familiar ground of The Twelve Dancing Princesses into a story of resourcefulness and a loving heart, Zahler's debut deftly and thoughtfully embellishes the tale's classic elements. Banished to the life of a serving girl in the royal palace after her mother died in childbirth, Zita, at age seven, is shocked to learn she is the 13th daughter of harsh King Aricin. The sisters cherish Zita's stealthy visits to their bedroom via a hidden dumbwaiter, and despite the princesses' inability to secure husbands (they are rendered mute in the presence of suitors), all seems well until Zita turns 12 and her sisters sicken and take to their beds. As the princesses grow paler and more feeble, Zita's only clues are her sisters' mysteriously worn-out shoes. Suspecting evil magic, Zita enlists her friends-Breckin the stable boy, his soldier brother Milek, and Babette the forest witch-to help her. Zahler takes a light story and gives it gratifying depth, rounding out the characters and their motivations without betraying the source material and wrapping it all together in a graceful and cohesive romantic drama. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Over My Dead Body

Kirkus Review (September 1, 2009)
The laughter continues in this second installment of the Klises' series about a ghost and her friends. As in the first book, Dying to Meet You (2009), the entire story is told through letters, newspaper articles and the like and is adorned with M. Sarah Klise's amusing line drawings. Dramatic tension builds when elderly writer I.B. Grumply and his charge, the abandoned boy Seymour, are carted off to an insane asylum and an orphanage, respectively. Ghost-in-Residence Olive breaks them out and does her best to see that all villains get what they deserve. A dreaded government agent tries not only to break up the happy partnership but to outlaw Halloween. Worse, he turns the town against the trio, endangering their livelihood--publishing a serialized illustrated mystery. Much of the town of Ghastly, Ill., gets involved in the excitement, with characters sporting names appropriate to their callings, such as the locksmith, Ike N. Openitt. Even the addresses on the letters add to the comedy of this light, diverting romp. (Fantasy. 8-12)

I Am Going!

Kirkus Review starred (December 15, 2009)
The two-time (so far) Geisel Medalist continues to set the bar high for beginning-reader achievement in this latest installment of the Elephant & Piggie series. Cover art depicts Piggie poised to walk away and anxious elephant Gerald's horrified reaction to her imminent departure. Although the title page repeats this cause-and-effect relationship, the book proper opens with the contented pair reveling in each other's company. "This is a good day," Gerald announces, and it is--until a few pages later when Piggie says, "Well, I am going," and her elephant pal pitches a fit of separation-anxiety-induced pleading and temper worthy of a certain pigeon (who, since he shows up in every Willems book, appropriately makes an appearance during this tantrum scene). Piggie holds her ground, eventually explaining that she's only lunch. Relieved Gerald, along with a contingent of ants, joins her for a picnic, replete with colors that satisfyingly deviate from the series's limited palette. To paraphrase Gerald: This is a good book. (Early reader. 4-8)

Duck! Rabbit!

Booklist starred (April 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 15))
Preschool-Grade 1. How cute is this? Really, really cute. Some readers may know the visual puzzle that makes the same line drawing look like a rabbit or a duck, depending on how you squint; this book is even funnier (and a little disorienting) if you’re meeting Duck/Rabbit for the first time. But even those familiar with how ears can turn into a beak will get a kick out of the way Rosenthal and Lichtenheld move the concept forward. The offstage narrators see something interesting: “Hey, look! A duck!” “That’s not a duck. That’s a rabbit!” Then the back and forth begins, with the duck quacking while the rabbit is sniffing, the duck eating bread, the rabbit munching a carrot. In the most clever spread, readers turn the book vertically to see the duck getting a drink of water, while the rabbit cools its ears. The simple art is reminiscent of Eric Rohmann’s work and will appeal to the same audience. Despite the story basically being one joke, the clever tone and the amusing pictures (rendered in ink, watercolor, “and a wee bit of colored pencil”) never let it feel that way. The clever ending might inspire kids (and parents) to create their own artistic twofers.