Books by JoAnn Adinolfi

THE BIG ADVENTURES OF MR. SMALL by JoAnn  Adinolfi
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 13, 2016

"The sheer looniness of the premise combines with potty humor for a fairly specialized audience; readers looking for a traditional friendship book may find themselves averting their eyes. (Picture book. 7-9)"
Can eyeballs be characters if they don't have a face to sit in? If you add stick arms and legs, they can. When they link up with a "teeny tiny hamster" who's in search of a big adventure, the result is a goofy plot. Read full book review >
THE LITTLE TREE by Muon Van
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 19, 2015

"Full of gentle rhythm and repetition, this deceptively simple, layered poetic tale will charm its way into readers' hearts and begs to be read over and over again. (Picture book. 5-9)"
Using a tree and her seed as metaphor, Van draws on her immigrant background to demonstrate parental love for a child, even if it means letting go. Read full book review >
ALFIE THE APOSTROPHE by Moira Rose Donohue
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2006

The lowly Apostrophe discovers that a little magic goes a long way in the Punctuation Talent Show. Little Alfie is sure that he doesn't stand a chance, especially after watching the Question Marks rap out jokes?, and the Exclamation Points bound across the stage shouting cheers! But after making one letter disappear in "can't," transforming others in "won't," and best of all, uniting a toy and Dot, a volunteer from the audience, as "Dot's doll," he becomes "the Show's shining star." Donohue confines the contending punctuation to common uses only, but tucks in some wordplay (Hiram the shy Hyphen was "probably wishing he could dash away") and Adinolfi's brightly colored figures, though bearing smiling faces, actively posed limbs and the occasional item of dress, are still instantly recognizable. Donohue earns high marks for this lively debut—pair it with Robin Pulver's Punctuation Takes a Vacation (2003, illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
HIPPOPOTAMUS STEW by Joan Horton
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2006

"Quickly, tell me, what would you do / If a hippo were stomping around in your stew." Horton's collection of silly animal poems covers the animal kingdom from the ponderous hippo to a snuffling elephant to the annoying, but much celebrated in story and poem, mosquito. There are several gems: advice to tell your jokes to hyenas if you want to be assured of laughs; a centipede's lament at never finding 100 pairs of matching shoes; a snake who wishes he had a zipper to help him shed his skin; and a tiny lizard's dream of being a monstrous, fearless dragon. There are others, however, which are definite also-rans in this poetical biome: a penguin poem that brings Helen Lester's Tacky series to mind and a plaid-tortured chameleon fresh out of Looney Tunes. Adinolfi's mixed-media illustrations are bright and energetic, making this, if not a first choice, a good enough ingredient to fill out thin poetry collections. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
SKATEBOARD MOM by Barbara Odanaka
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2004

Odanaka's tale has a good measure of whimsy—a mom hijacks her son's skateboard, which he has just received as a birthday present, and sets about strutting her stuff, revealing a hidden skateboarding past—but the poetry can be disappointing. The rhymes have off-beats with all the fluidity of square wheels—" ‘See you later,' she said, skipping out the door. / ‘See you later,' she said, not a single word more"—and the writing can display a certain rigor mortis: "Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack / ‘Mom, can I have my skateboard back?' / Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. / ‘Please, may I have my skateboard back?' " Yet, the nutty story survives even these inadequacies. Adinolfi's art, on the other hand, is steadily fun—offbeat in the right ways—with the characters looking like they've been ironed onto the page, somehow frozen in motion. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
THE PERFECT THANKSGIVING by Eileen Spinelli
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Spinelli depicts divergent and contrasting family lifestyles in this holiday dual scenario. Abigail Archer's family observes Thanksgiving with everything meticulously done, from a plump golden turkey and delectable homemade pie to an afternoon of organized recreation. Mrs. Archer is the complete host, dressed in organdy and pearls. Abigail's friend and droll narrator describes her own mom, dressed in jeans, serving burnt turkey, store-bought pie, and a quivering Jell-O mold before a chaotic afternoon of juvenile fun-loving horseplay and grown-up dozing. Andinolfi caricatures separate formal and informal ways of both families with alternating gouache and collage illustrations on craft paper and extends the satirical rhyming narration with balloon commentary. "Abigail Archer's father / serves white meat all around. / Everyone takes dainty bites, / and no one makes a sound. / My grandpa chews the gizzards. / My brother chomps the wings. / My sister slurps. My uncle burps. / And Aunt Clarissa sings." The jovial celebration of a national feast day highlights the common thread of loving kinship present in both households. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
THIS BOOK IS HAUNTED by Joanne Rocklin
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A good collection of poems and quick tales that packs a little Halloween chill. Adinolfi's (Fred's Bed, 2001, etc.) art has the right mixture of daffy and spooky—eerie faces and clacking skeletons, in strong colors—to set the tone for these six stories, a couple of which have comical edges, but mostly have a solid, creepy quality. Two are cautionary tales: One involves a couple of girls who visit one house too many on Halloween night, the other an irresponsible bully boy who refuses to bring back a library book. One provides a shock: "Then Sally Bibble drew a little scribble / that looked a lot like Baby Bibble. / They never found her baby sister. / Sally Bibble hardly missed her." And a couple leave strange things unexplained, though older characters think they have figured out the queer happenings: a house that echoes even when it's not empty, and a mysterious tap tap tapping. The text is also pitch-perfect for beginning readers, with just enough challenge to the words and a narrative momentum that pulls readers right along. (Easy reader. 4-8)Read full book review >
FRED’S BED by Marilyn Singer
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

A simple, satisfying, reassuring tale of little Fred's transition from crib to "big boy's bed." Singer's (A Pair of Wings, p. 422, etc.) skill with this age group is apparent as the mother offers her son rhyming options to the crib: "Would you like to rest, in an eagle's nest, way up high near the sky?" and he replies, "Too high." The fantasy continues with the refrain "I need another kind of bed." Adinolfi (The Birthday Letters, 2000, etc.) generously renders colored mixed-media paintings, with turquoise blues and soft lavenders, cherry reds, and lime greens on textured paper, some framed by spongy color and others spreading over the very edges of the page. Each painting displays just the right amount of fantasy and security. Fred tries snuggling down a rabbit hole, a "snooze in the fishy ooze," "a nap in a monkey's lap," among other whimsical places, until his mama provides him with "a big, soft mattress, bright red spread, some fluffy pillows for your head." Just right. (Harper Growing Tree series) (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
THE BIRTHDAY LETTERS by Charlotte Pomerantz
ANIMALS
Released: March 31, 2000

Despite some funny touches, Pomerantz's story of the tedious bickering between two kids gets hoist on its own petard. Tom wants to have a birthday party for his dog Louie. He sends out invitations to his friends Lily and Pedro, and to Pedro's sister Emilia. Emilia writes back that she and her gerbils would love to attend. (Actually, Pedro writes, and reads, everything for Emilia, though only after Emilia likes to pretend she is doing him a favor.) Tom says no gerbils; he evidently wants Louie to have the limelight. The two set to quibbling via the mail—Emilia calls Tom the world's meanest potato head (comically rendered by Adinolfi, who draws Tom as a lumpy head full of eyes) and he refuses to relent. Emilia appeals to Tom's better half, but Louie, since Tom is doing the writing, says no to the gerbils. Finally comes the day of the party when Emilia just shows up, with a big steak bone hidden in her dress. This drives Louie crazy. It looks to Tom like Louie can't live without Emilia, so she gets to stay. But since she doesn't have the gerbils in tow, the victory has a hollow ring. And really, who needs more frivolous arguments in their lives? Adinolfi's artwork, though hip and darting and with an eye for any humor that can be wrung from the text, ultimately can't keep the dreary story afloat. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE by Gordon Korman
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Zoe, worried that she is not special, has the bad habit of making up outrageous stories and trying to pass them off as the truth in order to make herself appear more interesting. Her constant lying has made her classmates, teacher, and parents suspicious of anything she says. Even when Zoe tells the truth, no one believes her except her devoted younger brother, Joey, and her kind friend, Michael, and even they are getting fed up. The didactic intent is hammered home with such force by Korman (Why Did the Underwear Cross the Road, 1994, etc.) that even readers who aren't paying attention will know they are being lectured. The messages—lying is bad, imagination is good, everyone is special—are both cloying and obvious. In her odd and childlike black-and-white illustrations, Adinolfi is behind the most imaginative aspects of the book; Korman displays little affection for his main character and even less for the readers for whom this story is intended. (Fiction. 7-9) Read full book review >
MY TEACHER'S SECRET LIFE by Stephen Krensky
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

A boy figures he's got the scoop on his teacher's life once the last bell rings: Mrs. Quirk tidies the halls with the rest of the teachers, works out with the gym teacher, sups on leftovers from the cafeteria, listens to a story, and, along with her colleagues, unfurls an air mattress from her desk drawer at bedtime. One day the boy spies his teacher, Mrs. Quirk, at the supermarket. Later he observes her buying a pair of roller skates, then watches on another day as Mrs. Quirk skates in the company of a little girl (who looks like her) and a man who puts his arm around her. Krensky (The Printer's Apprentice, 1995, etc.) faithfully captures the discombobulation that attends running into authority figures outside their contexts. The narrative is fresh and bright, its tempo clips along, and when the boy unexpectedly catches his teacher out of school, he never misses a beat. Adinolfi's eccentric, color-drenched artwork makes the after-hours classrooms look somewhat eerie, but mostly snug. (Picture book. 4-6) Read full book review >
MRS. COLE ON AN ONION ROLL by Kalli Dakos
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1995

Fewer selections (32 vs. 38), shorter verses, full-color illustrations, and an absence of the serious poems of If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand (1990) gear Dakos's collection to a younger audience than her earlier work. The poems are energetic, upbeat, and have a humorous slant on the trials and triumphs of the primary years. Perhaps the titles tell all: ``Mrs. Wren Lost Her Glasses Again,'' ``The Day Before I Wear the Birthday Crown All Day in School,'' ``Muddy Recess,'' ``Elemenopee,'' ``I Lost My Tooth in My Doughnut,'' ``My Project's in the Toilet,'' ``There's Something in My Book Bag, and It's Slimy.'' The poems are varied in form—some have regular meters and rhyme schemes, while others are written in free verse. Many of them make use of repetition, so they will be easy for early readers to enjoy, memorize, and recite. With artwork as kinetic and multicolored as the graphics on ``Nickelodeon,'' this volume will appeal to those who appreciate the anything-can-happen environment of Miss Nelson's classroom or the Magic School Bus. (Picture book/poetry. 5-8) Read full book review >
THE EGYPTIAN POLAR BEAR by JoAnn  Adinolfi
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Egyptologists (in all honesty) have found hieroglyphics recording plans for a polar bear's burial vault. Adinolfi felt the bear's story had gone begging for too long. Thus, although not exactly cut from the cloth of history, Nanook the lonely polar bear's saga begins. Many years ago, the bear hitched a ride on a passing iceberg in search of a fellow creature's company. He floated way south, slipped through the Straits of Gibraltar, and washed ashore in Egypt, then ruled by the lonely boy king Rahotep. The king ordered cool drinks to soothe the beast. He offered Nanook a slice of goose, and though the bear sensed it was not seal meat, he took a nibble, then more. Rahotep felt brave, Nanook felt sated, and both felt a dent in their loneliness. Nanook became the royal playmate and engaged in typical fifth-dynasty shenanigans: griffin hunting, pyramid climbing, dancing till the sun rose over the sphinx. Fast friends forever. This book is pure entertainment, so don't go searching for great truths. The story will grow on you, as will the stylized, altered-state illustrations, richly colored confections as loopy as the story. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >