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.”