Friday, January 29, 2010

A Very Big Bunny

Booklist (November 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 5))
Preschool-Grade 1. Amelia the bunny knows all too well that it’s hard to be different. Despite her parents’ well-meaning assurances, the bunny finds her sizable stature a burden. On the playground, her classmates protest that she is too big to play with the other bunnies, so she spends recess alone. Then one day, Susannah, a pint-size bunny with pluck to spare, arrives in class. Her new classmates claim Susannah’s diminutive size prevents her from playing with them, too, but that doesn’t stop the spirited newcomer from seeking out a friend in Amelia and winning her over with a plan to make the two bunnies stand out in an entirely new way. Imbued with charming details that reward close inspection, Russo’s vivid gouache illustrations are a lively counterpart to the text’s refreshingly real-life tone and spot-on dialogue and classroom situations. A rewarding title for discussions on fitting in, bullying, and accepting and appreciating differences.

Scrapbook Starters

Booklist (December 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 8))
Grades 3-6. “Making a scrapbook . . . is a way to tell a story about yourself with pictures and notes.” This attractive title in the Creative Crafts for Kids series guides young readers through the basics of starting, designing, and maintaining a scrapbook, from choosing a theme to forming a scrapbook club with friends to share the fun. The projects include seasonal suggestions, such as a collage of Halloween memories (suggested materials include candy wrappers and fake spider webs), as well as visual celebrations of friends and family. Boxed tips, supply lists, and full-color photos of scrapbooking kids in action, along with completed projects, add visual interest to each spread; diagrams offer fuller explanations for the more complicated activities, such as a paper-folding technique used to make a multipage, foldout family album. A glossary defines technique and design terms, such as layout and negative space, while a final page includes a short list of scrapbooking Web sites. A solid resource on a popular subject.

Dracula Madness

Booklist (March 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 13))
Grades 2-4. Sam is a sheepdog and a detective, but she is nothing like classic scaredy-dog Scooby-Doo. She doesn’t like having to move to a new town, worries about making friends, and loves to eat weird food combinations that her owners don’t want to give her (such as popcorn with ketchup). Her neighbor and walker, 10-year-old Jennie, can hear Sam’s thoughts, and they get along well. When Jennie takes Sam for a walk and shows her the spookiest house in town, they decide to investigate the reclusive owner, Mr. MacIver. When they see men delivering a large, long box, and they see a strange creature working in the basement, they think MacIver might be Dracula. This graphic novel is an adaptation of Labatt’s prose novel Spying on Dracula (1999). There’s just enough creepiness and suspense for younger readers, with simple yet expressive art that stays just on the lighter side of spooky. A nice choice for young mystery fans looking for graphic novel options.

Lawn to Lawn

Booklist (December 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 7))
Grades K-3. In a plot that hearkens back to Toy Story, seemingly inanimate objects left behind during a move go out into the world and find their grateful owner. The four objects here are lawn ornaments: a flamingo, jockey, troll, and deer. Pearl, the little girl whose lawn they have been ornamenting, has a tea party with them at the start of the book but then somehow leaves without them. On their journey to Pearl’s new home, the ornaments focus on avoiding trash trucks and end up meeting lots of other statuary. Other lawn gnomes and flamingos are very friendly, but a gang of “creepy gargoyles” follows Pearl’s friends until a brave moose statue comes alive and chases the gargoyles away. Yaccarino’s clean, bright illustrations have an appealing retro look, and the trek through suburbs, swamps, fields, and city is a visual treat. The book’s ending is fairly predictable (a child–lawn ornament reunion), but the last twist (the ornaments get through the gated community’s gates via a trash truck) is a keeper.

The Hidden Boy

Booklist (December 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 7))
Grades 3-6. The Flint family, believing they’ve won a vacation in a lottery none of them remembers entering, are instead transported—with their neglected neighbor, Phoebe—to a magical and preposterously confusing land. At the center of the tale is Bea, a gritty girl determined to find her little brother, Theo, who seems to have disappeared as the magic tour bus entered Bell Hoot. To do so, she must mount a fight against warring clans, learn the language of honeybees, and dream about another mysterious boy named Ike. Her parents help by reading and making tattoos. Berkeley’s arch writing and his characters’ hilarious, pathos-inspiring temperaments and abilities make this magical stew both compelling and delightful. His jokes are within the grasp of a third-grader but will also delight adults reading this aloud to children. The world-building is just right for the target readers, who will definitely want more from the Bell Hoot Fables series.

Have I got a book for you!

Booklist (September 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 2))
Preschool-Grade 2. The offer stated in this book’s title is issued by a huckster of a fox in a clashing plaid suit. “I can sell anything!” boasts Mr. Al Foxword, and on each spread, he slyly tries to wheel and deal readers into buying the book that they already hold in their hands. Similar in format to Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel titles, the pages mix text and pictures in creative, unconventional layouts that amplify the goofy humor, as Foxword works himself into a nervous, sweaty frenzy, trotting out every sales cliché along the way. Jokes and interactive fun are the point here, not a solid story, and Watt embeds lots of wordplay into the slapstick scenes filled with Foxword’s body language and verbal manipulations. A closing gimmick will bring even more laughs, though underneath the layers of jokes, kids may very well recognize in Foxword’s wheedling a greatly exaggerated version of their own frustrated negotiations with grown-ups. Give this to Mo Willems’ legions of Pigeon fans.

Groundhog Weather School

Booklist (November 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 6))
Preschool-Grade 3. When the annual Groundhog Day forecast proves inaccurate in Rabbit’s locale, he encourages Professor Groundhog to open a weather school with students from around the continent. Soon they gather to begin their lessons in GeHOGgraphy, Famous Furry HOGnosicators, nature’s weather predictors, burrow construction, seasons, and shadows. Finally, they graduate and head back home to hibernate until the big day. Although a good bit of information about groundhogs is tucked into the text, captions, and speech balloons, the approach is so varied and so often witty that children will absorb the facts effortlessly. One clever double-page spread shows six animals checking off whether they have what it takes to be a weather forecaster (i.e., a groundhog), while another shows four students in panels, month by month, from October to February 2. The amusing illustrations, colorful paintings digitally collaged with found objects and papers, set the tone for this inviting introduction to groundhogs and the holiday named for them.

The Dragon of Trelian

Booklist (April 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 15))
Grades 4-7. Magician’s apprentice Calen and young princess Meglynne meet accidentally when both choose the same hiding place from which to watch the enemy kingdom’s procession, in which the prince of Kragnir comes to Trelian to marry Meg’s sister. Calen, lonely with only his strict master for company, and Meg, burdened with a terrible secret, quickly grow to trust each other. Calen helps Meg with the baby dragon she has been secretly tending, and he teaches her how to manage the psychic link she’s formed with it. When they discover a plot to assassinate Meg’s sister on the eve of her wedding, thus rekindling the war, they must find a way to stop the traitor with just their wits, Calen’s apprentice-level magic, and Meg’s half-grown dragon. Calen and Meg’s easygoing, entirely believable friendship is the core of this adventurous first novel. Meg is gutsy and impulsive, while Calen is thoughtful and steadfast; and they make an appealing duo. Though not breaking new ground, this is a solid addition to the fantasy genre.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wild Girl

Kirkus Review starred (July 15, 2009)
Five years ago, when she was seven, Lidie's mother died and her father and brother left to train racehorses in America without her. In Brazil Lidie could quarrel with her cantankerous uncle, sing in her aunt's colorful kitchen or gallop horses up and down the hills, but when she finally gets to America she can't find words to express her anger, longing and frustration. Her well-meaning brother has painted her new room candy pink and decorated it with baby pictures, which she hates, and her silent father buys a broken-down school horse to teach her to ride. At school her lack of English has mortifying consequences. Only in her father's unsettled filly, the aptly named Wild Girl, does she find a kindred spirit--and Lidie begins to think that if only she could ride Wild Girl, everything will be all right. As usual, Giff's characters are beautifully nuanced and entirely real, her prose is as streamlined and efficient as a galloping Thoroughbred and her quiet ending breaks your heart. A stakes winner. (Fiction. 8-14)

Wishworks Inc.

Horn Book (September/October, 2009)
Third-grader Max is having a tough time. New in school and the victim of bullies, he retreats into an imaginary world, where a big handsome dog, King, protects him and where dragons and other beasts fight his battles. Real life is the problem. Real life is living in a new, smaller place with his mother and younger sister Polly. Real life is the divorce and a father who wants Max to be something he is not: a "regular kid" with lots of friends. Max has scant interest in television or school or sports or video games, but he longs for a dog of his own -- a dog like King. One day, when Max imagines a shop called Wishworks, a place where wishes come true, his life takes a surprising turn. Though the strange old shopkeeper warns him to wish carefully, Max's wish isn't specific enough, and what appears is not a stand-in for King but a "horrible little rat-tailed dog." Max's relationship with his sister and mother as they adjust to the divorce is touching, painful, and very believable. Readers will be relieved when Max finally makes the right wish and begins to live in the real world, with his family, the new dog...and a new friend. Tolan creates a world rich with complex secondary characters, and Bates's soft, realistic illustrations tie the story together and make it accessible to new readers and experienced readers alike.

What's Inside?

Booklist (February 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 12))
Grades 4-8. From King Tutankamun’s tomb in Egypt to a Mayan temple in Mexico, from the Sydney Opera House in Australia to the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, this handsome picture book introduces famous constructions, one building at a time. Each right-hand page features an outside view of a landmark building with a brief caption, accompanied by the tantalizing question, “What’s inside?” Turn the page, and the answer is there in a big, amazingly detailed collage composition, accompanied by a sidebar filled with facts, such as each building’s name, location, date of construction, materials, architects, and the building's current use. In his first book as both author and illustrator, Laroche uses his trademark collage technique, combining drawing, painting, and cut-paper. This isn’t a lift-the-flap, question-and-answer title to browse through quickly. The minute detail celebrates the awe-inspiring constructions with a focus reminiscent of David Macaulay’s work. This will have many grade-schoolers poring over the pages for a long time.

Today I Will

Booklist (November 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 6))
Grades 5-8. The popular husband-and-wife authors join together in this new direction for both: an advice book. Arranged in a chronological format, with one page dedicated to each day of the year, the book features three sections in each daily entry: a quotation from a children’s book, a short passage of advice, and an affirmation. March 29, for example, features a quote from Paula Fox’s novel Western Wind (1993): “You can’t take words back . . . They sit there like big damp frogs.” The following advice speaks about regret for something that was said, and the closing affirmation is, “Today if I feel myself about to release a word I’ll regret, I’ll bite my frog.” Subjects cover a broad range of topics, including contacting grandparents, buckling seatbelts, resisting peer pressures, and turning off the TV. Readers can dip in at random and read a page per day or as many as they choose. The advice, while often humorous, is practical and age appropriate. Young book lovers will delight in the quotations (as will teachers and librarians), and fans of the Chicken Soup series will eat up this appealing offering.


School Library Journal (September 1, 2009)
PreS-Gr 2-Otis is a fun-loving tractor who roams the fields after a hard day's work and plays in the haystacks. In the barn one night, his engine provides a gentle purr that helps a frightened young calf fall into a peaceful sleep. The two become inseparable. That is, until the farmer decides to upgrade and brings home a brand-new, shiny yellow tractor and relegates Otis to the weeds behind the building. Having outlived his usefulness, Otis just sits there, impervious to the calf's call to play. But when his friend gets stuck in Mud Pond and no one-not even the fire department-can pull her out, the feisty tractor revs his engine ("putt puff puttedy chuff") and saves the day. His heroism and concern for a friend are themes that will appeal to young readers. Long's gouache and pencil artwork is stunning with a red and cream main character against a sepia-toned monochromatic background. The overall effect is nostalgic and comforting as readers bond with the determined little tractor. In the end, Otis finds a place on the farm where his engine's soft purr can be put to good use. This satisfying conclusion that speaks of a place for everyone is sure to ring true to children.-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Kit Feeny On The Move

Booklist (September 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 1))
Grades 3-5. Moving to a new town? Awesome. Stowing your best friend away in a moving box? Stupid awesome. Getting busted by your mom? Stupid. But if there’s one thing Kit Feeny is good at, it’s coming up with outlandish schemes. But his new plan—to find a replacement best friend who loves graphic novels, ninja fishing, and Superballs—hits a snag when nobody meets his criteria, the bus bully boots him from his seat, and he gets in trouble for drawing in class. Upon realizing he can’t replace his bestie, Kit learns a lesson: making friends means being open-min—wait, nope, he strikes out as a lonesome hobo instead. Anyway, kids will get the point—loneliness isn’t cured by stuffing your best friend into a box but by being open to many different potential friends. Kit, a mischievous, silly, ambiguous anthropomorphic animal (a prairie dog, perhaps?), is an easy hero to cheer for in this graphic novel, which reluctant readers will find hard to put down.

Dear Vampa

Booklist (June 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 19))
Grades K-2. Life (or undeath) is hard. In a letter to his “Dear Vampa,” young Bram Pire describes why he and his family will be vacating their creepy mansion in Pennsylvania for the bleaker pastures of Transylvania. It’s the fault of the new neighbors, the Wolfsons. They aren’t anything like the Pires. They dress in bright colors—no black capes! They work, sing, and play all day, while the Pires are trying to log some coffin-hours. They sunbathe—disgusting! And when the neighbor kids slingshot the Pires as they are flying around in bat form, well, it’s the final nail in the coffin. Collins contrasts Edward Gorey–style etchings (the Pires) with sunny cartooning (the Wolfsons), leading to plenty of hilarious overlaps, the most impressive of which is a starkly divided two-page spread of both houses: cheery picket fence on one half, warped wrought iron on the other, and so on. The twist ending is that the Wolfsons are werewolves, and are sorry to see the Pires go. Not exactly a happy ending, but even that seems somehow appropriate.

The Circus Ship

Kirkus Review starred (August 15, 2009)
Van Dusen's rhyming text takes inspiration from an 1836 shipwreck, but fanciful fun, not tragedy, awaits readers here. The 15 animals aboard The Royal Star swim to an island off Maine after the ship runs aground and the circus's owner, Mr. Paine, abandons them. At first they shock villagers and run mischievously amok. A fire in a farm shed--with little Emma Rose Abbott inside!--engenders a dramatic rescue by the tiger, whose skill in leaping through flames comes into play. Amusingly, animals and villagers collude to thwart Mr. Paine's attempt to reclaim his menagerie. The verse is sprightly, but the pictures are the true stunners. Bright, lampooning gouaches (familiar from the Mercy Watson series) and dizzying perspective perfectly suit this picaresque tale. The reprehensible Mr. Paine is an apoplectic giant striding into the placid village at sunset. Huge, leaping flames dramatize the tiger's riveting heroics. Children will pore over panoramic spreads that invite them to find each of the 15 animals and celebrate a denouement that serves up Mr. Paine's just deserts. Splendid! (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mascot to the Rescue!

Kirkus Review (October 1, 2008)
Fans of comic books will find a lot to like in this breathless, funny novel about 12-year-old New Yorker Josh Miller, whose life seems uncannily parallel to that of Mascot, the sidekick in his favorite comic-book series. Things really start to go kazowie when Josh discovers that fans have voted to kill Mascot off. Along with two trusty sidekicks, Josh becomes embroiled in one rip-roaring exploit after another as he races against time in an attempt to fend off Mascot's--and, he's sure, his--fate, all the while outwitting real and imaginary forces of evil, pursuing police and frightened parents. David and Doran know their comic-book stuff, having worked on such mags as The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Teen Titans, and it's no coincidence that Josh's comic-book mentor is named Stan Kirby. The clever design incorporates different typefaces to relate Josh's and Mascot's adventures and includes comics pages within the text. The ending is as satisfying for readers as it is rewarding for Josh. Holy page-turner! (Fiction. 9-12)

Fairy Tale Feasts

Booklist (November 1, 2006 (Vol. 103, No. 5))
From prehistoric times, stories and food have been "close companions,"say Yolen and her daughter, who contributed the recipes in this creative book, which folds fairy tales into a cookbook of kid-friendly recipes. The stories, with the exception of one original story by Yolen, represent mostly European folktales, and Yolen retells them with her usual verve and ease. The tales are divided into four sections (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert), and each story is paired with at least one recipe that connects with the story's themes or references. For example, "Cinderella"inspires a recipe for pumpkin tarts, and "The Runaway Pancake"is matched with instructions for, naturally, "Runaway Pancakes."Stemple's recipes require adult supervision, but the resulting dishes, as well as Beha's spare, whimsical spot illustrations, will capture children's fancy. Detailed marginalia greatly enhance both the folktales and the food sections of this charming offering, which the whole family will appreciate. For more about cooking with kids, suggest Molly Katzen'sSalad People and More Real Recipes (2005) and the titles featured in the Read-alikes "Kids in the Kitchen,"in Booklist's October 15, 2005, issue.

The Day-Glo Brothers

Kirkus Review starred (June 15, 2009)
The Switzer brothers were complete opposites. Older brother Bob was hardworking and practical, while younger brother Joe was carefree and full of creative, wacky ideas. However, when an unexpected injury forced Bob to spend months recovering in a darkened basement, the two brothers happened upon an illuminating adventure--the discovery of Day-Glo colors. These glowing paints were used to send signals in World War II, help airplanes land safely at night and are now found worldwide in art and advertisements (not to mention the entire decade of 1980s fashion). Through extensive research, including Switzer family interviews and Bob's own handwritten account of events, debut author Barton brings two unknown inventors into the brilliant light they deserve. Persiani, in his picture-book debut as well, first limits the palette to grayscale, then gradually increases the use of color as the brothers' experiments progress. The final pages explode in Day-Glo radiance. Rendered in 1950s-cartoon style, with bold lines and stretched perspectives, these two putty-limbed brothers shine even more brightly than the paints and dyes they created. (author's note, endnotes) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

The Cabinet of Wonders

Publishers Weekly (August 18, 2008)
Add this heady mix of history and enchantment to the season's list of astonishingly accomplished first novels: in Rutkowski's multilayered version of late-16th-century Bohemia, magicians coexist with peasants and courtiers, a tribe of gypsies use specially endowed "ghost" fingers, and the fate of Europe hangs on the schemes of an evil prince. As the novel opens, a metalworker with extraordinary gifts has returned from Prince Rodolfo's palace in Prague, having finished his commission to build a magical clock--but the prince has gouged out his eyes, so that he can never duplicate the clock or, worse, better it. Even more disturbingly, the prince wears the eyes himself. Vowing to recover her father's eyes, 12-year-old Petra sneaks off to Prague, with little more than the company of Astrophil, an erudite tin spider who can communicate with her. Proving herself a worthy relative of, say, Philip Pullman's quick-thinking, fearless heroines, Petra navigates her way past sorceress countesses, English spy magicians, dangerous gypsies and through bewitched palace halls until Rodolfo, wearing the ill-gotten eyes, catches sight of her. Infusions of folklore (and Rutkowski's embellishments of them) don't slow the fast plot but more deeply entrance readers. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

The Book That Eats People

Kirkus Review (September 1, 2009)
In the fine old tradition of Jon Stone's The Monster at the End of This Book, illustrated by Mike Smollin (1971), and like cautionary exercises, Perry provides thrillingly urgent warnings to steer clear of this volume--or at least not to read it while smelling of peanut butter or other foods. Clever enough to hide behind enticing dust jackets (All About Dolphins, anyone?) and having cannibalistic tendencies along with a particular taste for unwary children, the volume can lurk in libraries, boxes of literary rejects put out with household trash and any number of other seemingly innocuous locales--so watch out! Fearing's Photoshopped collages and cartoon illustrations have a suitably menacing aspect, featuring plenty of crumpled or shredded paper, pop-eyed victims and, on many spreads, a toothy maw and glaring eyes. A Roy Lichtenstein-esque spread that finds the book captured, jailed and chained after eating a fellow prisoner, "who deserved it," is particularly inspired. Perfect for sharing with susceptible younger sibs or as a gift item for frenemies. (Picture book. 6-8)


Booklist (November 1, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 5))
Grades 4-7. There’s a great deal going on plotwise in this sequel to Swindle (2008), and that’s just how the legions of Korman fans like it. Once again, “The Man with the Plan” Griffin, animal expert Savannah and her Great Dane Luthor, and Everykid Ben join forces to solve a mystery. This time, they’re out to rescue Savannah’s pet monkey Cleo from an unethical zoo owner. When Cleo disappears from Savannah’s backyard and is later spotted on a school field trip to a decrepit floating zoo, madcap plans and adventures ensue: getting to and from the zoo in the middle of the night; distracting Klaus, the overzealous security guard; springing Cleo from her cage; and ultimately stashing more than 40 freed zoo animals in classmates’ houses without any parents noticing. Although often implausible, the action is fast and entertaining, with just the right amount of realistic drama to ring true. Korman knows his audience well, and readers will clamor for a third installment featuring these intrepid young crime solvers.

What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?

Booklist (February 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 12))
Grades 1-3. Recycling becomes lots of fun in this sprightly activity book. Alter offers 13 projects, and unlike some craft books, green or not, the finished projects are usually items kids will want to use. Each chapter begins with the question “What can you do with . . . ?” From one flip-flop to a ripped shower curtain, from used wrapping paper to empty berry baskets, useless things become transformed: the flip-flop into a stamp for making art, the shower curtain into an apron, the wrapping paper into greeting cards, and the baskets into possession-holders. Not every project is a winner—kids probably won’t want to take the time and effort to make a patch for torn clothes from a blanket—but melting down old crayons to make drawing cubes is clever indeed. The instructions are clear and simple (adult help is noted when required), and what really makes this a standout is Alter’s adorable artwork featuring a coterie of animals at work and play. Short poems introduce each project.

Two Bobbies

Booklist (September 1, 2008 (Vol. 105, No. 1))
Grades K-3. “Neither Bobbi the dog nor Bob Cat has a tail, and some say that’s what brought them together.” Abandoned during the Katrina evacuations, pets Bobbi and Bob Cat wander dangerous, debris-strewn streets seeking food and water. Eventually taken to a rescue shelter, the Bobbies show distress when separated but remain calm when together. Workers then discover that Bob Cat is blind and that Bobbi seems to serve as his seeing-eye dog. A national news appearance ultimately results in the animals' shared adoption in a happy new home. The descriptive, sometimes folksy prose and realistically rendered gouache illustrations accessibly convey the Bobbies’ experiences and mutual devotion. An afterword, with a photo of the real-life furry friends, notes the parts of the narrative that are speculative, such as the animals’ pre-shelter experiences.This moving story about the importance of friendship and home highlights the plight of the hurricane’s lost and left-behind animals, as well as the value of animal shelters.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Booklist (October 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. Jackson Jones is the coolest kid in his school, and he enjoys tormenting the nerds. After he is fitted with braces, however, he becomes a social outcast, and it’s only then that he discovers that the geeks at his school are part of an elite espionage unit, NERDS. The school’s nerds aren’t eager to let him in on their operation, but their adult leaders insist, and Jackson is soon involved in the fight against an evil genius, who is attempting to shift major islands as part of a plan to upset the earth’s plate tectonics. Buckley joins the current craze for novels featuring kid spies with this witty send-up. There are lots of stereotypes here: the nerds come with buck teeth, many fashion faux pas, and an array of allergies. Still, this fun adventure is sure to attract followers, who will look forward to the sequels promised at the novel’s end, and Beavers’ comic-strip style illustrations add further appeal.

How to get Married by Me the Bride

Kirkus Review (April 1, 2009)
With comical insouciance, a self-appointed bridal expert discourses on all things matrimonial. From courtship through the reception, a diminutive bride-to-be offers advice on a plethora of wedding minutiae. Moving along at a jaunty pace, tongue-in-cheek dialogue strives to accommodate all eventualities. A litany of spousal choices ranging from a favored flower to your best friend is bound to tickle funny bones. Kernels of wisdom are freely scattered throughout the tale. As the narrator sagely observes, regarding potential bridegrooms, "If you marry a noisy shouting person, he will give you a headache." This sprightly tale offers readers a hilarious and mostly on-target child's-eye perception of what are the really important parts of weddings. Heap's acrylic-and-crayon illustrations reflect the playfulness of the tale. Her sketches of the child bride-to-be blithely orchestrating her big day with her friends, who happily throw themselves into the playacting, are an integral component of the story's joie de vivre. Aspiring brides and starry-eyed flower girls alike will be enchanted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Everything for a Dog

Kirkus Review starred (July 15, 2009)
In this poignant companion to A Dog's Life (2005), Martin pursues her story of two homeless puppies from male puppy Bone's perspective, adding canine-related stories from two boys, Charlie and Henry. When stray siblings Bone and Squirrel are separated, Bone is rescued by a young couple, becomes an elderly man's companion and eventually searches for a home. After Charlie's older brother RJ falls from a tree and dies, his mom suffers a breakdown and his dad withdraws, leaving Charlie to grieve with RJ's dog Sunny until another accident strikes. Eleven-year-old Henry's parents won't let him have a dog. When his best pal moves away, Henry renews his plea, but to no avail. Bone autobiographically tells his own touching tale, while Martin compassionately relates Charlie and Henry's stories in the third person. She artfully alternates and gradually weaves together threads from the canine and human tales until the three stories converge in time and space into a completely heartwarming and satisfying finale. Essential fare for fans of A Dog's Life or the perfectly crafted canine tale. (Fiction. 9-12)


Horn Book (September/October, 2009)
"Millions of years ago prehistoric trucks roamed the earth." These dinotrux (which included Craneosaurus, Dozeratops, Dumploducus, Garbageadon, and Tyrannosaurus Trux, among others) are the forebears -- the much nastier forebears -- of modern trucks. They did not get along with each other, much less with people -- at least not until a blinding light and big storm forced the smarter ones to migrate and evolve into their more helpful modern counterparts. In fact, the penultimate spread depicts one truck extracting the "fossilized" remains of Tyrannosaurus Trux. With a final page turn T. Trux is housed in a museum; he towers over the janitor sweeping the floor, and his headlights blink on ominously. With a clever stroke of genius, Gall has combined two boyhood fixations -- trucks and dinosaurs -- in one double-the-fun book. These subjects, along with strong lines, bold colors, and plentiful asides that invite audience participation, recall the work of Jim and Kate McMullan (particularly I Stink!, rev. 5/02, and I'm Bad!, rev. 5/08), and fans of those books should embrace this one with equal zest.

The Beckoning Cat

Booklist (February 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 12))
Preschool-Grade 2. This charming retelling of a Japanese folktale explains the good-luck symbolism behind the waving white cat, whom kids may recognize in the ubiquitous white statues that sit with paws raised on business counters. Young Yohei, a poor, hardworking door-to-door fish monger, finds his life transformed after a muddy white cat comes begging. Yohei shares his meager dinner with the feline visitor, and the next day he is astonished when customers begin to come straight to him. The reason, he soon discovers, is the grateful white cat, who lures people to Yohei’s door with his beckoning paw and stays on to help Yohei create a prosperous fish business. In her children’s book debut, Nishizuka writes in captivating, simple, easily paced language that is well suited for storytime, as are Litzinger’s watercolor, pencil, and gouache pictures. In petal-soft shades and textures, the uncluttered compositions feature appealingly rounded, expressive figures, and children will enjoy following, and then talking about, the mysterious, prominently placed green-eyed cat to the book’s happy conclusion.