Books by Keith Graves

PUPPY! by Keith Graves
by Keith Graves, illustrated by Keith Graves
Released: April 12, 2016

"Not so different from having a 'puppy' of the canine sort. Except for the stripes. And the impressive teeth. (Picture book. 6-8)"
For boys, at least, some things haven't changed since the Stone Age. Read full book review >
SECOND BANANA by Keith Graves
Released: Feb. 10, 2015

"Take this off the shelf to share with primary-grade students who are navigating the ever changing landscape of friendship. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Under the big top, the show must go on, but the relationship between a spotlight-grabbing monkey and the amiable gorilla that assists him is ripe for a change. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 12, 2014

"A true, monstrous success! (Picture book. 5-9)"
A been-there-done-that just-try-to-impress-me boy gets his wish to "be something screamingly scary. / Something fanged and foul and terribly hairy!" Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2011

"Unfortunate Events galore, served with relish. (finished illustrations not seen) (Melodrama. 11-13)"
The creator of such picture books as Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance (1999) and Three Nasty Gnarlies (2003) dishes up a first novel seasoned with the same delightfully twisted, ghoulish sensibility. Read full book review >
CHICKEN BIG by Keith Graves
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

"On a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop, a very small hen laid a big, humongous egg"—and, of course, out of that egg hatches a big, humongous chick. He is so big (he looks like a giant yellow pear with a yellow bowl cut looming over the other barnyard fowl) none of the other chickens knows quite what he is. "It's an elephant!" surmises the dimwitted smallest chicken. When an acorn falls and bonks her on the head, she begins the whole sky-is-falling shtick. Chicken Big reassures the panicking chickens—"It's only an acorn. They're actually quite tasty"—and is promptly relabeled a squirrel. Graves rings the changes on the atmospheric woes that might confuse a chicken, causing Chicken Big to go through numerous incarnations: Next he's an umbrella, then a sweater ("This is getting ridiculous," he thinks). The illustrations maximize the goof factor inherent in Chicken Big's babyish colossalness next to the tiny adult chickens, and they incorporate speech bubbles and some sequential panels to advance the foolery. For all kids who know they are really smarter than the grown-ups. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

An old English folktale gets a Texas makeover. Desert Rose is one plucky Texan pig farmer. When she finds a gold nugget, she uses it to procure a pig. She picks a pig sure to win first prize at the state fair. The problem is that she picks a picky pig, a highfalutin' hog that will not drink up the water in the creek so they can make their way to the fair. She pleads for help from many desert animals, but none will help her until she strikes a bargain with an ambitious armadillo with attitude. Hooooooeeeeeey! This partic'lar offering combines regional dialogue and a sophisticated vocabulary in the name of tongue-twisting, folksy fun. Graves's rich and vibrant acrylic illustrations add to the charm by giving all the characters, human and animal alike, plenty of personality. The plot, lifted nearly lock, stock and barrel from Joseph Jacobs's "The Old Woman and the Pig," is pretty bare bones, but readers will be so focused on the prose and on plucky Desert Rose, they probably won't notice. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2009

Very much in the same vein as the previous Froggie and Rabbit books, Asher's latest contribution finds Froggie all hepped up about an impending visit from Goose, Gander and their new baby, Gosling. He's got so many ants in his pants, he is inspired to compose a little ditty—"Waiting for baby / to play with me. / Wait— / (Can't wait.) / And wait— / (Gotta wait.)"—that serves as refrain, crescendo and climax. As Froggie's anticipation builds, Graves steps in to provide visual energy with vivid, rather zany characters in full-page and spot art. When Gosling finally arrives, he is bawling like mad and nothing will quiet him. The colicky gosling is getting to Froggie, so he breaks into his song and does a funky soft shoe, which does the trick. With its scant story line and oversold message, this book is all about engagement; as a read-aloud, it should achieve a strong response to Froggie's song, especially if accompanied by some freestyling dance steps. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
THE WORLD’S GREATEST by J. Patrick Lewis
Released: April 1, 2008

This is not, as a quick glance at the title might suggest, an attempt to anthologize the best poems ever written, thank goodness. It is, instead, a goofy celebration of (mostly) equally zany world records. Thus, readers will enjoy "The Most Plates Spinning," which typographically sets the ascending count of spinning plates off from those intermediate discs that threaten to fall; "The Tallest Christmas Tree," which presents them with a star-topped shaped poem; and "The Longest Traffic Jam," which consists of a string of single-word lines arranged in rhyming couplets. Graves's bright illustrations provide agreeably silly accompaniment, at their best juxtaposing two separate poems into one double-page whole: A giant curve of a wave ("The Longest Time a Message Was in a Bottle at Sea") threatens to overwhelm a roller coaster so high its apex peaks above the page ("The Tallest Roller Coaster"). Not all the spreads equal this level of cleverness, and it's overall a pretty slim premise, but it's not a bad way for kids to spend an afternoon—and it might send them to Guinness to think up their own. (Poetry. 6-10)Read full book review >
WHAT A PARTY! by Sandy Asher
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

Young Froggie has such fantastic experiences at Grandpa's birthday party that he doesn't want it to end. Waking up in the morning with the adrenalin pumping, Froggie dashes out to where his populous family (first introduced in Too Many Frogs!, 2005) is already setting out food and decorations, and after whipping up a costume and an entire stage, belts out his favorite wordless song for Grandpa and other appreciative listeners. Graves fills the woodsy setting with blobby green frogs in purple party hats, adding an eager—and then mutinous—looking youngster in a bright yellow costume that resembles oversized pajamas. Eventually, Froggie crashes, surrendering to the temptation of a bedtime story from old Rabbit. Parents should find the whole scenario entirely familiar. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2006

A hyper-cautious lad is dragged by his hair—literally—into a looser lifestyle in this typically off-the-wall episode from Graves. Too "properly prudent" to smell the roses, play on the playground or even to smile ("What if a flying insect were to crash into one's teeth?"), Barcelona sports thick goggles, rubber gloves, a life jacket and thick locks of blue hair that are trained to stand straight up. Until, that is, one day when they explode into a wild mass that dances outside, stomps through a puddle, climbs a tree, pets a dog and performs other such imprudent stunts as Barcelona, willy-nilly, tags along. A rainstorm finally washes off whatever it was that touched off the spree, but the damage is done, and off goes the boy, upright again and grinning despite the danger of bugs. Though less gross than Graves's best work, this is sufficiently wacky to sit next to, say, Margie Palatini's Bedhead, illustrated by Jack E. Davis (2000). (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
TOO MANY FROGS! by Sandy Asher
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

Asher and Graves pay respects to the pleasures of reading aloud in this tale of a solitary rabbit saddled with an unwanted visitor. One stormy night, just as Rabbit's about to sit down in his easy chair with a book, Frog knocks at the door, begging shelter. After listening raptly while Rabbit reads, Frog departs with thanks—but returns for more the next night, and for several nights after that, making himself more and more at home, too. A peace-loving sort, Rabbit puts up with the intrusion—until Frog shows up with a score of relatives. Using his customary palette of intense, opaque colors, Graves casts the episode with pop-eyed, Ren-and-Stimpy-like figures, comically contrasting rotund, cheery frogs with a bright blue rabbit who sports skinny, immensely long ears and a fussy look. Furiously slamming the door on Frog and his kin, Rabbit then discovers that reading to himself just isn't the same, and so relents. Readers and listeners alike will applaud his decision. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
MOO WHO? by Margie Palatini
Released: June 1, 2004

More verbal paradiddles from the Principessa of Puns and Wordfoolery. Thanks to a hard cow pie to the head, bovine diva Hilda Mae Heifer loses both memory and the ability to emit her earsplitting (off-key) moos. Confused, she wobbles over to a goose and honks. " ‘Lady, enough of that honking! You're a cow. You moo.' ‘Who?' answered Hilda. ‘Me? Moo?' " Similarly worded encounters with chicks and other livestock ensue. A foreshortened body behind huge, mottled purple nostrils in Grave's characteristically oddball illustrations, Hilda waddles forlornly about the barnyard, uncertainly repeating, "Moo-oo. Me? Moo?" until her memory and Wagnerian voice at last return. The plot's a bit too thin to give this the udder perfection of Bad Boys (2003) or Web Files (2001), but it should still incite guffaws, particularly read aloud. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2003

The author of Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance (1999) and other grotesqueries proposes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder—funky though that beauty may be. Dwelling amid mounds and puddles of sloppy garbage done up in typically oogy colors, three grimacing, pop-eyed, happy-go-lucky creatures resembling mutant roaches are cast into gloom when Snooty Judy Butterfly criticizes their looks. Following her lead, they cocoon themselves in various substances and wait for miraculous transformations—in vain, natch. But their disappointment is short-lived; with quickly restored senses of self, they caper off, singing, "We're the Nasty Gnarlies. / We're dirty and we reek! / We're gloopy-gloppy-glamorous. / We're positively chic." Graves casts the entire episode in verse, inviting readers to bellow out the lyrics to an operatic musical arrangement. A yucky, mucky crowd-pleaser. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
LORETTA by Keith Graves
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Loretta's goal to be the latest in a long line of perfect Pinky Scouts is foiled by her inability to toast a marshmallow to golden perfection. Other outrageous tasks, like saving the world, bench-pressing 375, and building a snowman atop Mt. Everest are no problem for the plucky scout, but she cringes in shame before a portrait of her grandmother, "The most perfect Pinky ever." Gran's portrait, speaking in a gratingly perky manner, declares to the distraught girl, "Well, girlfriend, stinking is part of life," and confesses that her perfectly knotted bowtie is a clip-on! Not only that, each of Loretta's ostensibly perfect ancestors all had fatal flaws themselves. Loretta is finally able to sleep well, stating that she likes her marshmallows raw anyway. The message isn't new, and the snarky smirk on Loretta's face is perfectly annoying, but Graves (Uncle Blubbafink's Seriously Ridiculous Stories, 2001, etc.) adds some levity by exaggerating the quest for merit badges among Scouts to the level of caricature. The illustrations portray the perfect ladies, complete with smirks of their own, and Loretta herself with ludicrously large heads and absurdly small bodies, hands, and feet, emphasizing Loretta's firmly styled braids and upswept bangs and her determined facial expressions as she furiously bench presses and scorches marshmallows. The irritatingly hearty tone is reminiscent of the overly enthusiastic coaches, camp counselors, scout leaders, and peers everyone can recall. Ace Scout Loretta isn't particularly appealing, but perhaps she's not meant to be—perfectionism is not a desirable trait, and children may recognize a bit of Loretta in themselves before it gets out of hand. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"OK, so I'm Uncle Blubbafink. Hello already. I hear you're looking for a good story or two. Well, you came to the right place." This assertion is highly debatable. Uncle Blubbafink, a balding, squatty individual with deeply purple skin and a black-and-white striped trunk instead of a nose, certainly has stories to tell, but they stop short of being "seriously ridiculous," managing instead to be seriously unfunny. Graves (Pet Boy, p. 109, etc.) here attempts the sort of zany hijinks perfected by Scieszka and Smith but delivers a tedious round of busily and brightly illustrated stories about Abraham ("Honest Ham") Sandwich and George Washing Machine and the mysteriously chopped-down ham trees; Smoky, the baby volcano who was raised by chickens; and Dave, the dragon who ate so many used-car parts his head turned into a station wagon. Clearly the reader is expected to delight in these flights of illogic, but there is so little underpinning to them that they exist in a referential vacuum and thus carry very little humor. The book designer also clearly takes the Scieszka/Smith collaborations as a model, allowing the typeface to change color, size, and font in rapid succession, swooping around the pictures with abandon. The illustrations themselves are competent, and some, such as the image of a grassy moon covered with munching cows, are mildly humorous. Make no mistake: the same kids who love Captain Underpants may well revel in Uncle Blubbafink. But it's hard to imagine an adult able to bear reading it to them. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
PET BOY by Keith Graves
by Keith Graves, illustrated by Keith Graves
Released: March 1, 2001

For those times when it is forgotten that a pet is not a toy, Graves provides a pointed little cautionary tale. Young Stanley is a pet collector. "He purchased them in singles / and matching colored sets. / Big or small, wet or dry, / he loved to buy new pets." He also has a tendency to forget their existence after playing with them for awhile. Comes the day that he gets a taste of his own medicine. While shopping in an "undiscovered shop," he gets captured, sent to a far galaxy, and sold as a pet. His owner is a nice enough, three-eyed chap, but, robbed of his freedom, fed pretty dreadful pet grub, and encouraged to do silly tricks, Stanley is one unhappy puppy. He makes a break for it, gets thrown in the pound, is saved by his three-eyed owner, and sent back to planet Earth after he pleads his case. " 'Thanks,' said Stanley. 'You saved my life. / Friends like you are few. / But I'm not happy in this jar, / or living here with you.' " Once home, his pets are not especially joyous about his return, but he does right by them and they decide to stay. Graves's artwork is corny but also bursting with color and a host of strange creatures. The verse a jaunty affair, but it's the pictures that will appeal the most. Certainly a very useful book to have on hand when a chorus of avoidance meets the dog's desire for dinner and a scratch behind the ear. (Picture book 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Reminiscent of Aesop's Fables, Ketteman (Shoeshine Whittaker, 1999, etc.) tells a mirthful moral tale wherein a busybody armadillo learns the consequences of eavesdropping and gossiping. Armadillo has ears as long as a jackrabbit's, which allow him to hear everything he shouldn't and make it very difficult for him to get around. Those pesky ears are always getting under foot. Moreover, all the other animals, stung by his misspeak, have excluded him from the watering hole. Despite his constant thirst and "the what-for and the how-come and the why-not" scolding he's been treated to, Armadillo persists in his disagreeable behavior. He creeps about, bending an ear to other's conversations and then twisting what he's heard. He really gets himself in a fix when he crosses Alligator. One day he overhears Heron and Alligator discussing the way Toad's skin has improved, perhaps because of a changed diet. Armadillo passes this along to Toad, only his version has Alligator calling Toad's skin "plug-ugly" and suggesting she go on a diet. When Alligator discovers this she gives Armadillo what-for but she also adds gnashing teeth and some precise nipping here and there until all Armadillo has left are diminutive ears. From then on, Armadillo cannot hear quite so keenly, but his ears never trip him up again. Graves's waggish illustrations, an ideal match for the text, are painted in striking deep hues and make for fabulous eye-candy. Rarely is learning a lesson this much fun. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >