Books by Daniel Kirk

Released: Sept. 4, 2018

"As an invitation to readers to empathize with the other creatures that inhabit our planet, this book is successful—and it is very pretty to look at. (author's note) (Picture book. 2-7)"
This large, colorfully illustrated picture book gives a strong, simple plea on behalf of the animals that inhabit the Earth. Read full book review >
LET'S GO ABC! by Rhonda Gowler Greene
Released: May 15, 2018

"There are lots of vehicle-themed alphabet books, but very few are as all-inclusive as this one is. Despite the one flaw, this book soars. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Here's another ABC devoted to "Things That Go." Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2017

"A solid introduction to wildlife conservation, but it misses the mark in providing a full context for the story. (Informational picture book. 4-8)"
Anna Merz was determined to protect endangered animals in East Africa. Read full book review >
PUSH! DIG! SCOOP! by Rhonda Gowler Greene
Released: Oct. 25, 2016

"Painless counting practice for construction-truck fans. (Picture book. 2-5)"
Anthropomorphic mother and father construction trucks teach their young ones how to do their jobs in this counting book/singalong. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 27, 2015

"Some will miss seeing Santa in a traditional red suit (fur or not), but Library Mouse fans will enjoy this peripheral extension of the series. (Picture book. 3-6)"
This interpretation of the classic Christmas story includes a few twists, such as a mouse family in the main roles, a human Santa dressed as a lumberjack, and some minor updates to the text. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 17, 2015

"Although the underlying idea is that resistance to change is normal—and acceptance of change is healthy—an easier sell would have been an animal who dreaded the cold and dark of winter. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Rabbit is apprehensive about winter turning to spring, and his friends Mouse, Bird and Bear help convince him that spring is equally wonderful. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 9, 2014

"Inspirational examples abound in both giving thanks and sharing. (Picture book. 4-8)
Before Pig can play with his pal Rabbit, he wants to finish his thank-you letter. But will his friend give him that chance? Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 23, 2014

"There are no bad sock monkeys, not even the one or two who have forgotten themselves for a second. (Picture book. 3-7)"
A sock monkey goes to the dark side, or as dark as a sock monkey can get, in Kirk's dovelike tale of dawning self-awareness. Read full book review >
LIBRARY MOUSE by Daniel Kirk
Released: Sept. 3, 2013

"The familiar characters make this architectural adventure feel downright homey. (Picture book. 5-9)"
Sam the mouse and his friend Sarah are back in a new, fifth adventure, and this time, it's centered on the renovations to their library home. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 27, 2012

"Although great for reading aloud, put this at the top of the list for using as a springboard for creative writing or a discussion starter about what qualities make a good friend. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Rabbit and Pig join the ranks of duos that grapple with the intricacies of friendship—and impressively stand out. Read full book review >
HONK HONK! BEEP BEEP! by Daniel Kirk
Released: Aug. 24, 2010

A young boy's toys come to life for a nighttime trek across the bedroom in their jeep. As the father-and-son pair (wooden dollhouse figurines) travel, they pick up more and more passengers: two rabbits who leap out in front, a road crew done for the night, a farmer and his flock of sheep and a monkey whose banana car has a flat. With all that and stopping for a passing train, will they make it in time for sunrise on the mountain? While similar to the illustrator's Tugga-Tugga Tugboat (2006) and Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo (1999), both by Kevin Lewis, the text suffers from sometimes-uneven scansion and obvious rhymes: "Wake up, sleepyhead. / Time's a-wastin'. Out of bed." And while Kirk's illustrative style is much in evidence with his rich colors and up-close views of the bedroom floor, the artwork lacks the just-right details that made the previous collaborations such a hit. Fans of the other two will likely find this title's familiarity comforting, but it just doesn't measure up. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
WHILE THE WORLD IS SLEEPING by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Released: Jan. 1, 2010

A giant snowy owl pays a visit to a young child, introducing him/her to some nocturnal animals. The child clings to the owl's back while they visit river, meadow, farmyard, stream and woods. "In the woods, a porcupine, / Rattles quills to send a sign, / Don't come near, this food is mine! / While the world is sleeping." With the exception of two, the rhymes work well and, with its repetitive phrasing, this would make for a good read-aloud in group settings. While most of the creatures are in fact nocturnal, Edwards includes deer and rabbits, which are crepuscular. The ending leaves open for readers the opportunity to have an adventure of their own—a stuffed owl on the bed suggests the power of imagination. Kirk's sharp-edged gouache artwork stops short of pure realism, rounding the animals a bit to suit a younger audience (though the fox's pop eyes look downright sinister). At the same time, children are given an extreme close-up view of most. Muted colors enhance the nocturnal theme. An imaginative look at nighttime nature. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

Following The Low Road (2008), this equally wide-body middle volume pitches teenager Matt and his nine-year-old sister Becky into the midst of a rogue mage's mad scheme to foment war between Faerie and all humanity. As the veil between worlds weakens, Matt and two pint-sized nonhuman companions set out in search of his captured parents and also a certain magical seed. First stop: the elven city of Argant (aka Pittsburgh), where the Faerie population is near anarchy. Meanwhile Becky ends up in Helfratheim—a center for munitions manufacture, where demagogic Mage Brahja-Chi is gathering 1,000 stolen human children for mass slaughter. Kirk creates a turbulent Faerie at odds with itself but united in its extreme hatred and fear of Humans. He also casts Matt with such a chip on his shoulder that it's a wonder he has any allies—though, indeed, even they have ulterior motives. The central plot is thin for the page count and the climax passes too quickly after all the buildup, but the ambitious tale's array of supernaturals may attract fans of all things fey. (Fantasy. 11-13)Read full book review >
LIBRARY MOUSE by Daniel Kirk
Released: March 1, 2009

Mouse becomes muse. Late at night when the library is closed, Sam the mouse, an enthusiastic reader and writer, sneaks out of his comfy hole to take advantage of the library's resources, leaving the books he writes behind. One morning, Sam works all night and falls asleep at a table, waking up just in time to avoid an elementary-school writing club. In his haste to escape, however, he leaves behind his notebook. Young Tom discovers it and takes it to the librarian, who suggests he leave it for Sam to find later. Tom has another idea, deciding to find Sam. He leaves cheese and a story he's written called "The Shy One" by Sam's mousehole. In no time flat, the duo is collaborating, with Sam doing the illustrations. And Tom's text gives Sam an idea for another book. Kirk's substantial text suits early grades. While his illustrations hold little artistic nuance, they do incorporate well-known titles by other author-illustrator duos, and children will enjoy spotting such favorites as Goodnight Moon and Miss Nelson Is Back. In all, a solid nudge to budding writers. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
ELF REALM by Daniel Kirk
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

A grim fantasy doorstopper uncomfortably juxtaposes gory adventure with New Age sermonettes. Matt—14, although appearing barely ten in his portrait—is unaware that the woods his father is bulldozing for development impinge upon Faerie and that his family has a tragic history with its denizens. His chance discovery of a doll-size shoe embroils the humans in the troubles of the elves, in which romantic plotting and political intrigue intertwine with impending environmental disaster. Kirk's Smurf-sized elves are an unchancy lot; while the villains are uniformly steeped in deceit, selfishness and violence, even the "enlightened" and "gentle" clans resort to theft, destruction and torture without compunction, despite their interminable ruminations on a vague eco-spirituality. The complicated hierarchy of the Elf Realm adds more confusion than depth or wonder, while the slightly creepy illustrations (mostly static headshots) illuminate little. After meandering for 400 pages, the narrative literally explodes into a barrage of grisly poisonings, suicide bombings, corrosive gas attacks and an apocalyptic inferno, resolving exactly zero of the plot lines and concluding with the most clichéd of cliffhangers. Unpleasant. (Fantasy. 12-14)Read full book review >
KEISHA ANN CAN! by Daniel Kirk
Released: May 1, 2008

With jaunty rhymes and a spunky heroine brimming with a go-to attitude, Kirk's sprightly tale encourages readers to let their inner star shine. From the moment she boards the bus until school is out, Keisha approaches her day with a confident attitude and a smile to match. Keisha models persistence even when things go awry and minds proper manners as she makes her way through a typical school day that includes all the minutiae of school life, from passing out paints to signing artwork. Kirk's boldly colored gouache illustrations seem to shimmer with African-American Keisha's ebullience and energy. With its gentle lessons in behavior, this charismatic tale will offer guidance to and bolster the self-esteem of readers both new to school as well as seasoned students. One caveat: Readers of a certain generation may find themselves reading aloud to the rhythm of the "Candy Man" song. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
CAT POWER! by Daniel Kirk
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

Either a companion or counterpoint to Dogs Rule! (2003), these 18 poems celebrate the lovable quirks, reproach the annoying traits and acknowledge the different personalities of all kinds of cats. From historic to contemporary times, the first-person—make that first-cat—voices pulse with typical feline authority and superiority—e.g., one stanza from Butterflies: "My paw springs up, my claws a rake, / but swiping just for swiping sake; / my hunting skills, as sharp as nails, / I'll save for crickets, ants, and snails." The full-bleed illustrations are strikingly realistic, especially the cats' eyes and fur texture. Covering the dreaded litter box, balls-of-string adventures, the scratching post and the dead-bird gift, there are purrs aplenty here for cat lovers. (CD) (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)Read full book review >
LIBRARY MOUSE by Daniel Kirk
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

A writing rodent inspires young library patrons. Sam the mouse has a cozy home behind a wall in the children's reference section, and every night he sneaks outside to read, feeling that the library belongs to him. His head full of information, he decides it's time to write a book of his own. Squeak!, his memoir, becomes an instant success when it's found stuck in a shelf by a young student. Sam follows up his debut with The Lonely Cheese and The Mystery of Mouse Mansion. Mrs. Forrester, the head librarian, leaves Sam a letter suggesting a "Meet the Author Day." Industrious Sam (who sharpens pencils with his teeth) turns this into a writer's workshop, with all the attendees turning out books of their own. Though the substantial text skews to older readership, the earth tones in Kirk's gouache illustrations lend warmth to his tale, which should encourage young would-be writers. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Whatever it is, tugboats have it, some mojo that gives them an aura of joyfulness. Kirk's tug is a good example of the breed. As the boat goes about its busyness, it gradually grows a big smile on its bow. "Scoot! Scoot! Toot! Toot!" Lewis's text is simple and lively, the kind one could just as easily sing as read out loud, and it's full of punchy rhymes: "Tugga-tugga tugboat. Bounce and bob and float, boat." Crayon-bright colors spread sunshine all over the double-page spreads as the tugboat chugs along beside a giant tanker, sea gulls flying overhead. But somewhere there's a slight shift in perspective, and little hints dropped in the illustrations—What are those big bars of soap doing on the wharf? What about the rubber ducky?—suggest that maybe this tugboat's harbor is a bathtub. And sure enough, "Day is over. Moon shines bright." It must be bedtime. A perfect ending to a perfect voyage. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

A young Tyrannosaurus rex awakes amid the jumble of tousled sheets and the clutter of toy trains, yo-yos and blocks. "Dinosaur, dinosaur, wake up with a roar! Grumpy-lumpy dinosaur, stomp across the floor!" But as he breakfasts at the tomato-red table with his mother and baby brother, things are slightly peculiar; the family cat is saber-toothed and the breakfast eggs are rather large. Once the morning process is complete, the young T. rex bursts out the door to greet the sun and his dinosaur friends. The day is filled with jump ropes, soccer balls and exultant mud stomping. As dusk descends, Mom, in her polka-dotted dress, ushers the reluctant dino-kid inside for dinner. Bath time is next and then a bedtime story as he snuggles with his plush wooly mammoth. Thus ends an idyllic day. The illustrations, in this exuberant rhyme, are so evocative they plunk the reader right into the midst of the carefree and magical summer days of childhood or, as in this case, dinosaurhood. If you have a fondness for dinosaurs, rousing words and zingy-bright pictures, then add this to your laptime reading list. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
BLOCK CITY by Robert Louis Stevenson
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

Echoing Ashley Wolff's 1988 approach to Stevenson's poetic tribute to the power of imagination, Kirk begins with neatly drawn scenes of a child in a playroom, assembling large wooden blocks into, "A kirk and a mill and a palace beside, / And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride." All of these acquire grand architectural details and toy-like inhabitants as the pages turn, until at last the narrator declares, "Now I have done with it, down let it go!" In a final twist, the young city-builder is shown running outside, into a well-kept residential neighborhood in which all the houses except his have been transformed into piles of blocks. Not much to choose between the two interpretations, but it's a poem that every child should have an opportunity to know. (Picture book/poetry. 5-7)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2004

In his debut caper, feline police detective Rex Tabby sets out to collar two bad-to-the-bone kittens intent on springing tough-talking Ma Manx from the Whiskerville lockup. A legend in his own mind, Rex sallies out into the field, for one inept effort after another, punctuated with lists of police slang and such largely bogus crime-fighting tips as, "Most often, liars will look anywhere but in your eyes." The plot's more Three Stooges than 39 Steps, but Rex's square-jawed, trench-coated figure gives nearly every spread that "Naked City" look, and as Ma Manx's bickering offspring are even less capable, the clawed Clouseau does eventually catch them up. Chet Gecko's still top egg in the hardboiled department, but life's going to be no bowl of cream for crooks with Rex—and sidekicks Si Meese and Frankie Fluff—on the case. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
DOGS RULE! by Daniel Kirk
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

A cheerful collection of compatible canines decorates the cover of this oversized volume, with a Chihuahua holding a bone monogrammed with the name of the author/illustrator. Using the same format as his previous collection with a transportation theme (Go!, 2001), Kirk here offers 22 rhyming poems about dogs and their behavior. The poems are actually the lyrics to songs (with vocals by Kirk) that are included on an accompanying CD. The poems cover several dog stereotypes and many aspects of common canine behavior, incorporating bouncy humor in both text and illustration. Kirk excels at capturing canine expressions: an outraged bulldog, a pampered lapdog, or a gleeful spaniel sticking its head out the car window to take the breeze. When considered as poetry, the poems are a little sing-songy, but then they are songs, and children might just have more fun singing along with the CD than merely listening. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
JACK AND JILL by Daniel Kirk
Released: June 1, 2003

Jack and Jill get plenty of exercise toiling up and down that hill in this considerably extended version of the nursery rhyme. The well, it turns out, is guarded by a crocodile who won't give out water—but will grant wishes in exchange for a hearty meal. Off go J & J to earn a ham from the butcher. Though Jill's canny wish for a plumber to fix the broken sink back at the house backfires—" ‘First,' he said to Jack and Jill, / ‘I'll check your pipes for leaks. / With any luck, I'll have it fixed / in just a couple weeks!' ‘Weeks?' "—her second try changes the croc into her disappeared Dad, who promises to fix the sink right after lunch. Doll-like figures with big blue eyes adorn Kirk's grainy colored-pencil scenes. The bandwagon's getting crowded with folklore takeoffs, but this deserves a spot on board for its faintly surreal air. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
MY TRUCK IS STUCK by Kevin Lewis
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A dump truck, a hole in the road, a bit of counting practice—all give post-toddlers plenty of reason to toot their horns in this dog-gone lively episode from the creators of Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo (1999). " ‘Help! Please help!' " the driver pleads, " ‘Does anyone know / how to make / my stuck truck go?' " With big, bright oils over sand and plaster, Kirk depicts an all-dog (but not all canine: see below) cast of passing motorists lining up to lend a paw. But not even one, two, three, four, five roaring engines can budge the truck, until at long last a tow truck rumbles up to add the needed oomph. That—and the fact that all along a horde of gleeful prairie dogs has been surreptitiously offloading the truck's load of mouthwatering bones. Featuring the deepest pothole since the one that snared Judy Hindley's Big Red Bus (1995), this gives The Enormous Turnip and like tales an updated setting. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
HELLO, HELLO! by Miriam Schlein
Released: June 1, 2002

Whether it is by bumping foreheads, twining trunks, rubbing noses, or simply waving, everyone and everything says hello in different ways. Offering a low growl deep in their throats, "that's how two lions say hello. Mmmmmm. HELLO." Chimpanzees may "say hello with a hug or a kiss. HELLO. HELLO." Exploring some other well-known animals, such as zebra, elephants, and penguins, this informative investigation of greetings will have young readers bowing, jumping, and even flapping their imaginary wings to offer a greeting to one another. One final two-page spread features a little boy offering a greeting of his own as the animals look on. Simple, yet eye-catching illustrations rendered in oil paint on textured paper are presented as double-page paintings. The texture adds reality to the fur and feathers depicted in the close-ups of animals demonstrating their greeting behavior. Informative, with play-along potential. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
GO! by Daniel Kirk
by Daniel Kirk, illustrated by Daniel Kirk
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Transportation in its many varied forms is the theme of this song collection with an accompanying CD. The words to the 23 songs are set as illustrated poetry in an oversized format with huge illustrations of children who seem ready to fly, skate, or ride right off the pages. Kirk (Bus Stop, Bus Go, p. 742, etc.) sings most of the songs on the CD, and he wrote most of the words and music for the original songs as well. The collection also includes a few familiar songs set to fresh rhythms ("I've Been Working on the Railroad" in a blues arrangement and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with a calypso beat). Some of the songs are about traditional types of transportation (trains and taxicabs), others are about methods of personal locomotion (a motorized wheelchair, a pogo stick), and still more songs explore popular trends such as Rollerblades, skateboards, and minivans. Kirk's vibrant, motion-filled illustrations are done in several styles, including clay sculpture and collage, with intriguing wheel-covered endpapers. Some of the lyrics don't really stand up as poetry, and a title page and the musical scores for the songs would have been welcome additions, but the catchy songs override these minor objections. Preschool and primary grade teachers will still find this a useful set for the classroom, and the CD (ending with "Sleeping in the Back Seat") is a natural for long car trips. (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)Read full book review >
BUS STOP, BUS GO! by Daniel Kirk
Released: July 1, 2001

A hamster stages a cage-break on a school bus in this simple yet enjoyable piece of poetry, where the verse rolls along like the wheels on the bus, imparting a sweet momentum to the story. Tommy and his hamster, Hammy, board the bus and enter its busy world. Word bubbles capture the swarm of conversations that a school bus holds: " ‘Lets see the cards you wanna trade.' ‘Watch it, Kate, you pulled my braid!' ‘My science homework's almost done.' ‘Boy that hamster sure can run!' " Back and forth the hamster tools about the bus, causing a commotion: " ‘Darn, you almost had him Jack!' ‘Hey, you kids, sit down in back,' " yodels the driver. Finally, Hammy is cornered and caged, just in time to get off the bus at school. The cheering rhythms have a warm camaraderie with the art, which has the clarity of a cutout, the rich tactility of construction paper, details galore, and every so often, in keeping with the rhyme scheme, a page devoted solely to the words, "Bus stop, bus go!" caught in electric color on a black ground. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
HUMPTY DUMPTY by Daniel Kirk
Released: May 1, 2000

In this happy-ending remake of the nursery rhyme, a boy king gets over his shyness by doing himself what all his horses and men couldn't. Having put his fragile shell in danger several times to watch a parade, Humpty pays the price at last with a shattering tumble into the king's carriage. Reassembled with a few Band-Aids, Humpty recovers so quickly that not even a crack is visible by the next page. There another kind of bonding ensues as Humpty praises the king for being thoughtful and patient (readers may wonder why, since he doesn't display either trait), and the king admires his ovoid new friend's courage, which looks more like recklessness from here. The cut-out photos of faces and other details tucked into Kirk's (Moondogs, 1999, etc.) tidy, smooth-surfaced paintings will prompt double takes from viewers, and some chuckles, but the trite plot and long, monotonously rhymed text will get a polite reception at best. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
MOONDOGS by Daniel Kirk
by Daniel Kirk, illustrated by Daniel Kirk
Released: March 1, 1999

A deliberate sense of the absurd infuses Kirk's story of a boy and his dog with great humor and appeal. Young Willy Joe Jehosephat loves gazing at the moon through his telescope, but his parents want him to have a real playmate, a dog. Willy readily agrees—to a moondog, "the perfect pet for me./I watch them through my telescope./They're real, I guarantee!" After Willy builds a spaceship and is on his way to the Moon, he discovers a stowaway on board, a scrappy Earth mutt that Willy intends to leave in the care of the moondogs after he has made his selection. Once on the moon, Willy establishes contact with an enormous pack of moondogs, but also with a hideous moon man, who threatens to eat Willy. While the moondogs quake and quiver, the Earth mutt gives the moon man a good nip and sends him running. That's the dog for Willy. Questions of loyalty are obviously raised here, but Kirk's story allows for the pleasures of the here-and-now as well as acknowledging the dreams attached to distant stars. As always, the palette is robust and retro, with images that are invitingly participatory. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
BIGGER by Daniel Kirk
by Daniel Kirk, illustrated by Daniel Kirk
Released: April 13, 1998

Kirk (Breakfast at the Liberty Diner, 1997, etc.) has an unusual spin on an evergreen picture-book theme: getting bigger. After starting out in his mother's womb "so small that I was hardly even me," a child recalls passing infancy and toddlerdom on the way to school age, and the point where "everywhere I looked I saw my world getting bigger . . . and I was big enough to hold it all." Blue-eyed and apple-cheeked, the cheery narrator swells on each successive spread, making frequent eye contact with viewers without ignoring family or friends in the process. The frame and backgrounds grow too, beginning small and featureless, gradually expanding as the child's body and consciousness expand, to include parents, toys, the dinner table, friends, neighbors, and at last, the wide world, symbolized by an array of clearly seen objects, from a prism to a totem pole. Sharp color boundaries and even lighting give Kirk's rounded figures the look of polished wood carvings. A concise and ebullient reminder that physical size is not the only way children grow. (Picture book. 4-6) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

While they wait for Uncle Angelo at the Liberty Diner, Bobby, his baby brother, George, and his mother are surprised when President Roosevelt stops in during breakfast. Kirk (Trash Trucks!, p. 723, etc.) captures the happy chaos of a restaurant packed with diners, reporters, and a busy staff: Marge the waitress barks out orders as customers come and go. In the midst of all this, Bobby orders ``wrecked cackles'' for breakfast, only to discover he's getting scrambled eggs, which he hates. He starts to pout, but everything is interrupted by the arrival of the president. A reporter thrusts George into the president's arms for a picture, but Roosevelt pulls Bobby into the picture, too. Kirk barely dabbles in the range of colorful diner vernacular and, through the presidential visit, prevents readers from understanding just how exciting an ordinary day at the diner is. Expressive, eye-catching illustrations tell the tale better than the wordy text; filled with bustling, sipping, munching, smiling people, the scenes at the Liberty Diner come alive. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
TRASH TRUCKS! by Daniel Kirk
Released: May 19, 1997

The trash trucks are coming—monstrous trucks with gnashing grillwork and rattling metal jaws. Everyone helps out on trash day, and Kim and Pete are excited and just a little scared of the big, loud machines. The bright colors, inventive design, and in-your-face perspective present a diverting visual cacophony as the entire community gathers for the big clean-up—the scene includes Einstein, the Statue of Liberty, Santa Claus, Elvis, and the Mona Lisa. Kirk (Lucky's 24-Hour Garage, 1996, etc.) taps into rhythm and sounds that kids will love to shout out; the details are engrossing, from the retro-compost to the burly trash men's underarm hair. Big, bold images make the book an irresistible read; children will thrill to this raucous look at hungry garbage trucks. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
LUCKY'S 24-HOUR GARAGE by Daniel Kirk
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

Stiff and stylized in the polished deco-style paintings, Angelo looks like a mannequin as he goes about pumping gas at Lucky's all-night garage, circa 1939. As his shift progresses, Angelo serves a foxy lady biker who outlines her mouth ``with the brightest red lipstick Angelo has ever seen,'' an opera-singing Italian papa and his five children, and a bus full of cranky musicians. A bride and groom in a leaky convertible sit out a sudden storm (``some honeymoon''), and a fashionable drunk in ``top hat and tails as rumpled/as an unmade bed'' mooches a nickel for the candy machine. The jazzy design and bold, shiny artwork command more attention than the story; the string of unrelated incidents will recall old movies and other sources of nostalgia for adults but may not satisfy young children. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
THE DIGGERS by Margaret Wise Brown
Released: April 10, 1995

For those unfamiliar with Brown's 1960 work, illustrated by Clement Hurd originally and welcomed in these pages, it is a book in verse—half of it rhymed, half not—about digging. The first pages, devoted to animal and human diggers, are written in a simple, repetitive style, like children's counting games. The text then shifts into a more elevated mode, as an unstoppable steam shovel moves from city to country and through a mountain, building a railroad. This steam shovel is the hero of the story, and the moral is: There's nothing it can't do. Both the industrial theme and its heroic overtones ("And then came the big digger made by a man...") are reminiscent of socialist realism. Kirk's oil illustrations, in perfect balance with the text, follow a parallel development, beginning with close-ups of toy-like animals, and moving to anonymous workers in sweeping landscapes. These landscapes—multi-colored and painstakingly detailed—take in an enormous amount of geography in the background, while the steam shovel or the train in the foreground reach gigantic proportions. However, their epic breadth—of man's building abilities and the unlimited possibilities of the future—has a distinctive softness, both in the shapes and colors used. It is technology with a human face in this utterly modern revisitation of a classic—even as it blithely bypasses ecological concerns. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >