Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ogre of Oglefort

Horn Book (July/August, 2011)

Ibbotson's playful humor, pungent turns of phrase, and sturdy friendliness toward her child heroes suffuse this novel (her second-to-last book), a fantasy that has its share of dramatic conflict but at heart celebrates the value of a peaceful home in which "people...[do] not want to be changed but...[are] content to be themselves." A displaced Hag and troll, a hapless wizard, and Ivo, an orphan whose look is "so attentive, so eager and intelligent" that he passes as an Unusual Creature, are told to slay a dreaded Ogre who holds a princess captive. But it turns out that Princess Mirella is with the Ogre of her own choice: she wants him to change her into a bird so she needn't marry foolish Prince Umberto. The Ogre doesn't want to transform her; he's a grieving widower who just wants to join his wife in her grave mound. Ivo, Mirella, and their magical friends become grief counselors, castle-and-garden renovators, and, briefly, a fighting force whose arsenal includes a soup tureen, roof tiles, and plagues of frogs, warts, and the Great Itch. In this one-darn-thing-after-another story, Ibbotson champions children's courage and intelligence and, in fantastical mode, illuminates the insidious evil of the overly interfering. deirdre f. baker

Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm

Booklist (February 1, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 11))

Grades K-2. In a sort of picture-book version of his adult book A Dog Year (2002), Katz introduces the four dogs who now share life with him on a farm in upstate New York. Through simple text and bright photographs, the four pooches are described, one at a time. Rose, a border collie, herds sheep, and photos depict her staring down the flock even through heavy snow. Izzy was abandoned early in life but now is a therapy animal who visits the sick. Frieda, the rottweiler–German shepherd mix, “is a bit scary” and guards the farm. The question asked at the end of each chapter is the same: “But what is Lenore’s job?” The answer’s clear, but Katz spells it out: the black Lab, who “looks for disgusting things to eat and mud to roll in,” is in charge of keeping the other dogs happy by loving them—“And that may be the greatest work of all.” This is the love letter people wishes they could write to their own pets, and it makes a point well worth reiterating: in a family, all members are equally valuable.

Brixton Brothers: It Happened On A Train

Kirkus Review (August 15, 2011)

The Brixton Brothers Detective Agency is no more. Kid gumshoe Steve Brixton (who actually doesn't have a brother, he just picked the name because it mirrors his beloved Bailey Brothers detective stories) has, at the ripe old age of 12, retired from the detecting game. He became disenchanted upon discovering, during his last adventure (Ghostwriter Secret, 2010), that the author of those inspiring books was actually a criminal mastermind. So Steve's given up his agency, and now his best chum Dana is spending entirely too much time with Other Dana, his girlfriend. Little does Steve know that signing up for the Model U.N. with Dana and Other Dana will place him on a train rocketing toward detecting destiny!When meeting a mysterious young lady onboard gets Steve invited into the mysterious last car on the Sunset Coastliner, Steve and Dana (but not Other Dana) find themselves invited to protect Mr. Vanderdraak's new, vintage motor car from serial car thieves! Can Steve solve the case? More importantly, can he go more than five minutes without getting trapped somewhere? Barnett's sly and often silly Hardy Boy parody chugs along with plenty of laughs and enough honest-to-gosh mystery to please any lover of boy detective fiction. Rex's black-and-white pencils (which also parody the Hardy tales) are still a fine match for the goofiness. Mention of the next adventure at mystery's close will make Brixton fans smile. (Humorous mystery. 10-14)

Goyangi Means Cat

Kirkus Review starred (April 15, 2011)

This beautifully illustrated, gentle adoption story stands out from most other treatments of the topic by honestly and reassuringly addressing the loss-of a birth family, a birth culture-inherent in adoption as well as the joy a new family experiences. Here, Soo Min, a young Korean girl, is adopted by an American couple. Everything seems strange and new: She doesn't speak any English; her adoptive parents know little Korean. She finds comfort with Goyangi ("cat"), who doesn't need language to communicate, whose fur she strokes when afraid and who "licked her hand with his towelly tongue" when she is homesick for Korea. Soft-focus collage-and-paint illustrations show the family members getting to know one another: at the playground, in the library, playing soccer and just spending time at home together. Korean words in hanja (characters) incorporated into the pictures' backgrounds and the presence of Korean words in the Western alphabet interspersed throughout the text make this an excellent choice to share with children like Soo Min; seeing the words in both languages comforts as well as educates. Soo Min's age isn't specified; she looks about 2 or 3, which is older than most Korean children adopted in the United States, but that doesn't take away from the main idea. A sensitive portrayal of international adoption, authentically and realistically done. (Picture book. 4-7)

The Door In The Forest

Horn Book (March/April, 2011)

In a fictional 1923, in a time of "Uncertainties," Daniel is troubled by two things. One is the unreachable island in the middle of the forest ("The place pushed back against all your attempts, setting out twisted thickets of hedge-apple trees bristling with curved, medieval-looking thorns"); the other is his inability to lie, which renders him unpopular. Both are central when calamity descends on the town in the form of mad Captain Sloper. Claiming they are rooting out traitors, Sloper and his soldiers shell the protected island -- when they aren't harassing Daniel's new friend Emily, who seems to have a special relationship to it. Only after multiple confrontations with the military and a visit to the mysterious island do Emily and Daniel unravel the relevant puzzles. Townley's fanciful story swings like a pendulum from Wild West tall tale to a vague mysticism that is enlivened by colorful imagery. At the novel's not-so-strong moments, plot and episode waver in their logic. At its considerable best, it is quirky and engaging; sentences hurry purposefully along, deepening atmosphere, theme, and plot ("The trees [were] deeply shadowed, as if they knew more about night than the rest of us"). deirdre f. baker


School Library Journal (July 1, 2011)

PreS-Gr 2-The view inside this family of four's duplex depicts what might be a typical night for them. The younger child is reaching for a board game, her older sister is talking on the phone, dad is cooking, and mom is working at the computer. When the girl tries to enlist the others to play the game with her, they're all too busy-until "The lights went out. All of them." It's a blackout! At first, the family members sit at the kitchen table with a flashlight and some candles; then they head up to the roof for a look at the bright stars against the dark cityscape; and, finally, they go down to the street, where there's a festive atmosphere of guitars playing, free ice cream, and an open fire hydrant. In the end, readers will see that simple pleasures and a spirit of togetherness can be enjoyed even when the electricity comes back on. The colorful pictures work beautifully with the book's design. Rocco uses comic-strip panels and a brief text to convey the atmosphere of a lively and almost magical urban landscape. Great bedtime reading for a soft summer night.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking

Horn Book (November/December, 2011)

"Underwater": In panel one, Benjamin Bear's pet canary and goldfish express a desire to see what's under the sea. In panel two we see Benjamin, in scuba gear, walking across the sand carrying the fish in a bowl and the bird in a cage. In panel three he is walking into the water. We worry: Will the fish escape; will the bird drown? But in the final panel we see the fish in a cage and the bird in the overturned, air-filled fishbowl. Four panels, eighteen words, one page, and a full story with desire, a journey, danger, and a "hey, presto" conjurer's denouement. In these twenty-seven single-page stories Coudray creates a set of visual haiku featuring Benjamin and a variety of his friends. An appended "Tips for Parents and Teachers" and the series name, "Easy-to-Read Comics," tell us that this is for emerging readers. The care given to binding, endpapers, and paper make it look like a picture book. The koan-like content suggests something like lateral thinking for tots. The whole enterprise lies somewhere between fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear and an introduction to fuzzy logic. It is original, deep-down funny, and, most important, the adventures are steeped in the rare quality of imaginative kindness. sarah ellis

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mystery Math A First Book of Algebra

Booklist (October 1, 2011 (Vol. 108, No. 3))

Grades 2-4. Although it’s not unusual for a math book to explain equations and how to solve them, it is unusual when the setting is a haunted house on a moonlit night. First, this picture book introduces the idea that an equation is like a seesaw with one side balancing the other and the notion of a variable, “X,” as a mystery that can be solved. After demonstrating a few equations with easy, guessable solutions, the text begins a narrative about Mandy and Billy, two children who have been in the illustrations from the start. They visit a haunted house, where caretaker Igor (and the household cats, bats, and skeletons) demonstrate how to solve equations using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The story and lessons move along at a steady pace, while the eerie yet cheerful digital pictures illustrate the spooky setting, weirdly appealing characters, and even word problems with verve and style. An equation-related activity rounds out this kid-friendly introduction to basic algebra.

Inside Out and Back Again

Booklist starred (January 1, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 9))

Grades 4-8. After her father has been missing in action for nine years during the Vietnam War, 10-year-old Hà flees with her mother and three older brothers. Traveling first by boat, the family reaches a tent city in Guam, moves on to Florida, and is finally connected with sponsors in Alabama, where Hà finds refuge but also cruel rejection, especially from mean classmates. Based on Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child-refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in accessible, short free-verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking—with grammar, customs, and dress (she wears a flannel nightgown to school, for example); and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast who spends lunchtime hiding in the bathroom. Eventually, Hà does get back at the sneering kids who bully her at school, and she finds help adjusting to her new life from a kind teacher who lost a son in Vietnam. The elemental details of Hà’s struggle dramatize a foreigner’s experience of alienation. And even as she begins to shape a new life, there is no easy comfort: her father is still gone.

Happy Pig Day!

Kirkus Review (September 15, 2011)

The latest entry in this popular series for beginning readers features a new holiday: It's Happy Pig Day, and Gerald the elephant is feeling left out. The elements that have made this series so successful and enduring are all present once again: a clean design (white background, lack of extraneous details, large type in word bubbles, etc.), a friendship theme and a satisfying resolution. This time around, Piggie announces the upcoming festivities, and at first Gerald's excited: "Ooooh! I did not know about Happy Pig Day." But the day soon sours for him, as three pig friends seem to be monopolizing his best friend's attention. It's not until Piggie reveals the truth about these pigs and Happy Pig Day that peace is restored. "Happy Pig Day is for . . . Anyone," begins Piggie, and a squirrel, cat and bear whip off their pig-costume heads, shouting "Who!" "Loves!" "Pigs!" respectively. Ostensibly about celebrating porcine pride, this explores coping with feelings a child may have upon learning a best friend may actually have other friends. Several Elephant & Piggie books have received Geisel Awards or Honors, for books for beginning readers; this one will not only encourage kids to give reading a go but will also teach them at least a few words in a new language: " 'Oinky! Oink! Oink!' ... 'means Happy Pig Day in Pig.' " (Early reader. 4-8)

The Girl Behind The Glass

Booklist (September 1, 2011 (Vol. 108, No. 1))

Grades 3-5. When 11-year-old Hannah and her family move to an old house in the country, she is the only one to be aware of Ruth, a mischief-making child who died there 80 years earlier. While Hannah’s sisters carry on, oblivious, Hannah sinks deeper into misery, as she feels alienated from her family. Kelley has created a compelling array of characters, all seen from the viewpoints of Ruth and Hannah, neither of whom can be called a reliable judge of motivations in themselves or in others but both of whom are nevertheless sympathetic. Through Hannah, Ruth first regains access to a book she loved to read, and then, as events unwind, Hannah helps her acquire closure and move on to an afterlife. Hannah’s frustrations are palpable, and her final victory—discovering that her twin sister, too, can finally hear Ruth—is satisfying. There is a lot of action, simply but elegantly revealed at a pace that will keep Hannah and Ruth’s peers buried in their story right through the last page.

Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol

Booklist starred (June 1, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 19))

Grades 3-6. Andy Warhol was an unlikely fellow to ever be tagged fabulous. Shy, sickly, and labeled a “sissy,” Warhol could only imagine a life of glamour. But imagine he did, with pictures of celebrities on the wall to inspire him and his own artistic talents to push him to New York City after graduating college. There, Warhol was able to find success as an illustrator, but he hungered for more. He found fame and fortune as a chronicler of pop culture, using everyday objects as his subjects, as in his famous series of paintings featuring Campbell’s soup cans. Christensen—who once performed with Warhol’s “superstars” at the Actors Studio—does a masterful job of capturing her subject in just a few words. Readers will sympathize with the boy so unattractive he was called “Rudolph the red-nosed Warhola” and admire the perseverance that landed him in the limelight. The bursts of text are set against striking illustrations—collaged photo transfers on canvas, which were then painted in oil—that are a fitting homage to Warhol’s art. In an author’s note, Christensen shows another side of Warhol, who lived with his mother, attended church, and served dinners to the homeless. By making readers care about the young Andy, kids will be moved to explore his art, which is precisely the sort of relationship between biography and the real world that authors strive for. Christensen succeeds.

Earth to Clunk

Kirkus Review (May 1, 2011)

The boy in Smallcomb's story starts as a put-upon grouchypants but slowly turns over the course of a pen-pal correspondence. When his teacher tells him to write to his pen pal, he's all grumps: "I don't want a pen pal named Clunk from the planet Quazar." He completes the assignment by sending his bratty older sister along with the letter. Clunk sends back a Zoid. The boy fires back with his dirty socks (a welder's helmet and tongs are necessary to handle them, all part of Berger's bright, sunny interpretations of the story's brooding crankiness.) Clunk posts three Forps ("Forps smell like dog food"). Things escalate until the boy's mother demands his sister's return. Clunk takes a while to respond-the note has been sent in a box full of moldering lasagna-and the boy realizes how much he has enjoyed the skirmishing with Clunk. This tale scales no new heights of much anything, but there is no denying the pleasure of its dry, matter-of-fact delivery: "I got a package from Clunk today! Inside is a disgusting glob of something. And my big sister." And Berger's artwork, with its Southern California-bungalow cheeriness, has a wonderful way of turning the story's gravity in on itself, then stirring the ingredients into broad, spirited humor. Rarely have school letter-writing exercises been so much fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Around the World on Eighty Legs

Horn Book (March/April, 2011)

This collection of animal poems opens with a map of the world. The fifty-plus poems are arranged geographically by region, featuring such section titles as "From the Andes to the Amazon: South America (and Beyond)." Cleverly, the poems often pick up on some particular trait of the animal: "When gusts of wind / come, / it's all right. / The sloth hangs / loose -- / his claws hang / tight." Gibson uses a variety of poetic forms, many of the poems bouncing along in a way that will make readers want to read them aloud just for the joy of it. Funny wordplay ("Though it's winter, / he's so furry, / the chinchilla's not / chinchilly") match up with amusing illustrations in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil that depict each animal accurately but with a twinkle of personality. Packed with poems (and a selection of further interesting animal facts at the back), this makes a great gift book as well as a nifty supplement to story times and classroom units on animals. susan dove lempke

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dog in Boots

Kirkus Review starred (February 1, 2011)

Inspired by the story "Puss in Boots," Dog decides that he needs some splendid boots of his own, so he trots off to his local shoe shop to purchase a pair. While the boots are quite handsome, they are not particularly well-suited for digging, so Dog brings them back. Galoshes are great for digging, but not so much for swimming, so... The very appealing illustrations, replete with liveliness, warmth and charm, show Dog as he enthusiastically tries out a variety of footwear options and the ever-patient shopkeeper as he makes helpful suggestions and maintains an unusually generous return policy. After Dog's failed experiments with the original boots, some galoshes, flippers, high heels and skis, he returns again, asking for "...something that's good for digging and swimming and scratching and running. Oh, nice and furry too." Could it be that Dog may already have what he needs? After getting an answer-and having an extremely gratifying romp-Dog returns home to start a new book, this one about a girl with a striking red hood. Uh oh! Children will identify with Dog's good-natured struggle through trial and error, fall in love with the evocative and funny illustrations and laugh out loud at the satisfying ending. A truly enjoyable selection and a nice follow-up to a favorite fairy tale, just right for reading aloud. (Picture book. 3-6)

April and Esme Tooth Fairies

Booklist starred (October 1, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 3))

Preschool-Grade 2. It’s easy to miss the very beginning of this story, which starts before the title page. April, a seven-year-old fairy, gets a call on her cell phone. A boy has lost his tooth. Can April come pick it up, his grandma wonders? Well, no. April and sister Esme are too young for that. But when the grandma insists, they decide to give it a go. At first, their parents put up a fight, but the sisters remind them that back in the day, fairies started young. And so, packed with plenty of advice and cautions, the girls set out into the night, encountering the wind and an owl, until they drop down at Daniel’s house. They find the tooth, almost get caught, must make some crucial decisions, are tempted by Grandma’s false teeth, and return in one piece, a rite of passage now finished. There’s so much wonderful whimsy here, it’s hard to know what to praise first. As always, a major treat is Graham’s detail-filled artwork, here punctuated by a fairy toilet made from an egg cup and ceiling decorations of hanging teeth. But Graham also slyly covers some interesting issues as well: the cocoon in which parents like to keep their kiddies, alternative families, and the pride and accomplishment children feel with a job well done. Fresh and lots of fun.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Zita the Spacegirl

Booklist (December 15, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 8))

Grades 3-6. For no reason at all, a little red button crashes to earth while Zita and her pal Joseph are out cavorting around. Of course, no one could resist pushing a mystery button, which pops open an interdimensional portal that whisks Joseph away. Zita follows and lands on a delightfully bizarre alien planet, where she sees Joseph being captured by a tentacled, scuba-headed creature. She makes some allies, takes off after him, and zany mishaps and dashing adventures ensue. Any story in which one can escape prison with a tube of “doorpaste” (just like toothpaste, except that it makes magic doors appear when smeared on a wall) obviously puts more stock in wowing imaginations than satisfying logic, and it needs solid cartooning chops to back it up. Fortunately, Hatke’s got them, and he doles out an increasingly loony and charming array of aliens, robots, and unclassifiable blobs and hairy things for Zita (herself a cross between Ramona Quimby and a Matt Phelan waif) to encounter. It’s fun, plenty funny, and more than a little random. Kids will love it.

Wonder Struck

Booklist starred (August 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 22))

Grades 4-8. Opening Selznick’s new book is like opening a cabinet of wonders—the early museum display case “filled with a nearly infinite variety of amazing things” that is so central to this story. Following the Caldecott Medal–winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007), Selznick offers another visual narrative, one that feels even better suited to his inventive style. The beautifully crafted structure includes two stories set 50 years apart. The first, set in 1977, is told in text and follows Ben, who is grieving the sudden loss of his mother when he stumbles upon clues that point to his father’s identity. The second, told entirely in richly shaded pencil drawings, opens in 1927 as a young girl, Rose, gazes at a newspaper clipping. Rose is deaf, and Ben also loses his hearing, during a lightning strike. Both lonely children run away to New York City, and their parallel stories echo and reflect each other through nuanced details, which lead “like a treasure map” to a conjoined, deeply satisfying conclusion. Selznick plays with a plethora of interwoven themes, including deafness and silence, the ability to see and value the world, family, and the interconnectedness of life. Although the book is hefty, at more than 600 pages, the pace is nevertheless brisk, and the kid-appealing mystery propels the story. With appreciative nods to museums, libraries, and E. L. Konigsburg, Wonderstruck is a gift for the eye, mind, and heart.

Under the Mambo Moon

Booklist starred (June 1, 2011 (Vol. 107, No. 19))

Grades 3-5. Poetry, music, and dance come together with visually stimulating art and an authentic presentation of diversity in Latin American cultures to make this small book stand large. In lines of simple blank verse, young Marisol tells of accompanying her father to his record store and observing the various customers who shop for the dance music they love: “Papi says you can / read people’s souls / by the music / they listen to; / that hearts / fly home / when the music’s / just right.” Marisol’s narrative is illustrated in soft black and grays with elements of block print, sketch pencil, and wash that bring the store and its customers stylishly to life. As the dozen or so visitors—including a professor from Andean South America who recalls a zampoña (panpipe) player, a preschool teacher who loves to dance the son jaracho from Mexico’s Veracruz region, and a young man from the neighborhood who chats about the bossa nova and a certain girl from Ipanema—are introduced, they each get a page spread with a poem and a brightly colored pastel portrait that together vibrantly capture the movement and allure of each dance style. Back matter includes pithy descriptions of the different regions and dances evoked in the preceding poems. This lively book will delight many independent readers, dancers, and artists and provide a fun and accessible introduction to Latin American history and its lasting heritage of music and dance.

Thunder Birds

Library Media Connection (October 2011)

The beautiful, life-like paintings in this book allow children to come eye to eye with powerful predatory birds such as eagles, ospreys, herons, vultures, hawks, and owls they would normally be able to observe only from a distance. Four fold-out pages offer life-size renderings and close-up sketches of the birds' feet, wings, beaks, and feathers. The book's conversational first-person narrative draws readers in and creates the feeling of being right there with Arnosky as he visits different habitats and wildlife refuges. Informative captions identify each bird and detail its respective length and wingspan. The table of contents makes it easy to locate information about specific flying predators, and an author's note and list of additional bird resources identifies similar titles for further reading. This first-hand narrative of traveling across the country and observing some of nature's most powerful predators will wow readers and inspire them to scan the skies for thunder birds in their own communities. Anne Bozievich, Library Media Specialist, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Scarum Fair

Kirkus Review (September 15, 2010)

Prepare for a deliciously scary and occasionally gross carnival experience. This collection of poems takes brave readers on a journey past "The Ghoul at the Gate" and treats them to "Devil's Food Cake," "I-Scream" and "Cat-Hair Stew." Once fortified, there are activities to do-"Pumpkin Bowling" or a "Coffin Race," anyone?-and freaky folks to meet. Other creature features include the "Head Louse"-"This tiny pest / requires no care. / She's happy strolling / through your hair / and laying eggs / that quickly hatch. / So every day / you start from scratch"-and the "Poison Dart Frog": "Witch Clara has a tiny frog / that plays the cruelest joke / on creeps who try to capture him, / 'cause they're the ones who croak." Ghoulish subject matter, rollicking rhythms, lots of wordplay and Ashley's creepy cartoons, filled with interesting details, will keep kids turning pages. Pair with Frankenstein Takes the Cake, by Adam Rex (2008), or There Was a Man Who Loved a Rat and Other Vile Little Poems, by Gerda Rovetch and illustrated by Lissa Rovetch (2008), for some frightful fun. (Poetry. 7-12)

Ruth and the Green Book

School Library Journal (November 1, 2010)

Gr 1-4-Ruth's father just bought a beautiful new 1952 Buick, making it a big day for this African-American family. They are going from Chicago to Alabama to visit Grandma. Ruth is very excited to be traveling, but the family encounters "whites only" restrooms, hotels, and restaurants along the way. It's very discouraging and sometimes scary, but they learn that some friendly faces may be found at local Esso stations, which are among the few franchises open to black businessmen. At a station near the Georgia border, they are introduced to Victor H. Green's The Negro Motorist Green Book, an early AAA guidebook of sorts that listed establishments or homes that would serve African Americans-be it for general services, housing, or meals. Ruth eventually becomes the Green Book specialist in the family, helping to guide them to an auto-repair shop or an inn that would welcome them. But, the best part of the trip is finally arriving at Grandma's, as illustrated by the loving expressions on all faces. A one-page concluding summary discusses the importance of The Green Book, which was in use from 1936-1964, when the Civil Rights Act was finally signed, banning racial discrimination. The realistic illustrations are done in oil wash on board, a self-described "subtractive process." The picture is painted, then erased to "paint" the final product. Overall, there is a sepialike quality to the art, giving the impression of gazing at old color photos. This is an important addition to picture book collections, useful as a discussion-starter on Civil Rights or as a stand-alone story.-Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Postcards from Camp

Kirkus Review starred (June 1, 2011)

A reluctant camper gradually adjusts over the course of the summer, which is communicated entirely in postcards and letters between him and his father. After a brief prelude, the book begins with Michael's first postcard home, sent, apparently, as soon as he gets there. "Dear Dad, I HATE camp! Come get me! P-L-E-A-S-E. My counselor is an alien and a vegetarian." His father cheerfully responds to each plea with propaganda: New York City is in the throes of a heat wave; a hand-drawn postcard indicates that "97.3% of all children love camp." Postcard by postcard, though, Michael's attitude changes. He is certified as a "shark" in swim class; he goes on an awesome canoe trip; the Color War "was such fun.... Camp isn't that bad." There's one piece of correspondence per page turn, allowing readers to see both fronts and backs of postcards and letters. In the case of the letters, readers can "open" the envelopes cunningly glued to the pages and pull out the enclosed letters. Taback's signature illustrative style is perfect for this brief tale. Michael's scrawl and his father's cursive share space with collaged stamps and photographs as well as illustrations that suit the correspondents' ages. Share with kids before and after camp-newbies will be astonished at how typical Michael's experience is; seasoned campers (and their parents) will laugh all the way through. (Picture book. 7-12)