Books by Lane Smith

TOMORROW MOST LIKELY by Dave Eggers
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 2, 2019

"A pleaser most likely. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Gentle, playful affirmation from Eggers and Smith. Read full book review >
GIRAFFE PROBLEMS by Jory John
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 25, 2018

"Skip this stretch of a story and seek out stronger friendship titles instead. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Necks come in many sizes, and sometimes those sizes seem inconvenient. Read full book review >
A HOUSE THAT ONCE WAS by Julie Fogliano
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2018

"Inventive and lovely. (Picture book. 5-9)"
A derelict house on top of a hill beckons two young children. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 26, 2017

"The inspired and inspiring sense of play knows no bounds. (Poetry. 5-12)"
A frolicking romp through the zany world of nonsense verse. Read full book review >
A PERFECT DAY by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 28, 2017

"Perfectly funny while offering a chance to discuss perspective. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Bear unwittingly upends the backyard animals' perfect day in pursuit of its own in this playful tale. Read full book review >
PENGUIN PROBLEMS by Jory John
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 27, 2016

"Well-paced, bursting with humor, and charmingly misanthropic. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Being a penguin isn't all it's cracked up to be in John and Smith's debut collaboration. Read full book review >
THERE IS A TRIBE OF KIDS by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 3, 2016

"Smith soars in this earnest, meditative work about longing, the joy of interaction, and family. Absolutely radiant. (Picture book. 3-7)"
A lone child explores the natural world and its many animal tribes, collective noun by collective noun, ultimately finding a place of belonging. Read full book review >
RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 5, 2015

"Great fun, with hardly a trope or theme left unspun. (Fantasy. 10-13)"
The award-bedizened illustrator offers up his first novel. Read full book review >
KID SHERIFF AND THE TERRIBLE TOADS by Bob Shea
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 7, 2014

"A crowd-pleasin' knee-slapper that'll have 'em rolling in the aisles, yessirree. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A young sheriff comes riding high—atop a tortoise—toward the troubled, "cumin-scented" town of Drywater Gulch. Just give him a minute. Read full book review >
ABE LINCOLN'S DREAM by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 16, 2012

"An adroit blend of humor, compassion and quiet optimism reflects the statesman's character and make this a first choice for February or anytime. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Smith transcends clichés to present a fresh and intimate glimpse of the 16th president. Read full book review >
LULU WALKS THE DOGS by Judith Viorst
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 4, 2012

"Nonetheless, the short, funny chapters, over-the-top characters and engaging artwork will give this one plenty of appeal, especially to kids just venturing into chapter-book territory. (Fiction. 6-10)"
The second hilarious episode to feature feisty Lulu (Lulu and the Brontosaurus, 2010), who almost always gets what she wants. Read full book review >
GRANDPA GREEN by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 30, 2011

"Though this book has lots of adult appeal, it will also be a wonderful bridge to exploring family history with the very young. (Picture book. 5-9)"
An adoring great-grandson and a topiary garden tell the stories of one man's life. Read full book review >
LULU AND THE BRONTOSAURUS by Judith Viorst
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 14, 2010

Viorst, better known within the children's-book world for picture books than novels, flexes her muscles and introduces readers to delightfully obnoxious, fit-throwing Lulu, a spoiled only child prone to indulging in over-the-top temper tantrums to get what she wants. And what she wants now is a brontosaurus for her birthday. Her long-suffering parents finally put their collective feet down and refuse. Lulu's antics do no good this time, so she heads into the woods to find a dinosaur herself. In short chapters interspersed with funny narrative asides and whimsical black-and-white illustrations, readers follow Lulu as she heads into the woods, faces off with some ferocious animals and finally finds the brontosaurus, who decides he'd rather have Lulu as his pet than be hers! Lulu won't survive this adventure without some serious changes in her behavior. Dinosaurs, it turns out, are fond of good manners. The glib narrator provides not one but three endings for readers to choose from. Even so, they still won't have had enough of Lulu. Pitch perfect for the beginning chapter-book crowd. (Fiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
IT'S A BOOK by Lane Smith
by Lane Smith, illustrated by Lane Smith
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 3, 2010

Saucy hilarity and clever visual characterization make this wide-audience treat delectable until the potentially off-putting final page. A laptop-toting jackass is baffled by a monkey's unrecognizable possession. "What do you have there?" "It's a book." "How do you scroll down?" "I don't. I turn the page. It's a book." The answer to "Where's your mouse?" is universally comical—a live mouse cheekily appears from under monkey's hat. Despite advanced vocabulary (wi-fi; tweet), the refrain and pacing hit the sweet spot for preschoolers, while a Treasure Island passage reduced to AIM-speak will have middle schoolers and adults in stitches. Spongey-textured colors inhabit thick, sketchy outlines; composition is lively, facial expressions understatedly sharp. When the tech-savvy ass finally succumbs to the book's charms but still wants to "charge it up" like a computer, the mouse snarks, "You don't have to… / it's a book, Jackass." Despite Smith's sly title-page introduction of "jackass" as a legitimate animal label for donkey, this closing gibe refocuses and cheapens the humor into a gratuitous insult that yields no benefit beyond a feeling of superiority. (Picture book. 4-11)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 22, 2009

No shrinking violet (nor Treehorn), Princess Hyacinth yearns to play outside—but she'll float away! There's no particular reason, but indoors she wafts upwards until the ceiling blocks her, and outdoors, the sky's the limit. A wonderfully expressive illustration of Hyacinth dragging through the castle halls in her gravity-ensuring extra-heavy crown shows her pouting mouth (no eyes—they're buried under the crown) and her huge, downtrodden shadow on the wall. Smith's elegantly cartoonish brush-and-ink character survives an exhilarating scare involving a kite, a rescue and a newly formed friendship. Heide's prose takes off just when Hyacinth does: "She whirled and she twirled, she swooshed and she swirled…." When Hyacinth soars free in a vast pink sky, her figure is tiny and three balloons follow behind, creating a scene of breezy adventure that also feels delicate. Oil-paint backgrounds (shafts of light; antique-hued balloons; soft animal topiary) glow behind the pointy-nosed, active characters. Molly Leach's clever design shows the word "up" repeatedly rising, and one sentence levitates partially off the page—naturally. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
THE BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by Lane Smith
ANIMALS
Released: July 7, 2009

Well-known for now-classic works such as The Stinky Cheese Man and newer titles like John, Paul, George & Ben (2006), Smith has to stretch to fulfill his fans' outsized expectations. While the "big elephant" really is big (he practically fills the living room), his story doesn't quite reach the creative heights readers will be anticipating. Essentially this is the tale of two donkey friends (though one really is a bit of an ass). When asked by his friend about the (unseen) big elephant, the narrator runs through a litany of misunderstandings, missteps and outright unkindnesses that he believes his friend might be referring to. Frenetic illustrations in muted neutrals show the various situations, clearly meant to be hilariously reprehensible but mostly appearing mean-spirited instead. The ultimate joke, on readers as well as the narrator, is that the opening question was literal. The revelation of the (real) big elephant is amusing but not enough to save this one-note story, the joke of which will have to be explained to many a child. Ardent fans won't mind—but this could have been better. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
MADAM PRESIDENT by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 29, 2008

A deadpan text outlines a president's extensive duties, while Madam—a ponytailed girl in a snappy pin-striped pantsuit—trips through an exhausting day, bestowing small American flags as she goes. Smith's illustrations combine cartoonish figures, mod interiors and stylized landscapes a-swirl with fall leaves. A whimsical double-page spread proclaiming "A president must choose a capable cabinet" pairs toys with their official titles: Mr. Potato Head is Secretary of Agriculture, for instance, and a winged unicorn is "Secretary of Fantasy." Such retro elements as a deck of Old Maid cards and a Ruth Buzzi button will tickle adults, as might a Duck Soup-derived reference to "[t]he ambassador of Freedonia." Children can squint at the spines of Madam Prez's library (which leans to American history) and spot scores of visuals signaling her obsession (presidential busts, a pet cat doubling as a Secret Service agent). Though the Oval Office here is no more than a messy bedroom, this funny romp lightly delivers a hefty message for today's girls: The White House is yours for the taking. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BIG PLANS by Bob Shea
by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith
ANIMALS
Released: April 15, 2008

With as much emphasis as mammoth red display type can convey, a lad—plainly on a time-out, to judge from his opening-scene position in the corner of a classroom—proclaims that he has "BIG PLANS! BIG PLANS, I SAY!" Accompanied by a sycophantic mynah bird ("I'm in!"), wearing a fierce scowl and snapping orders right and left, he marches from boardroom to the moon across Smith's busy digital collages. On the way, this poster boy for unbridled ambition trumpets his intentions to take over a corporation, win a football game, oust the local mayor, demote the president to third in charge (behind the bird), order a rocket ship built and leave his message written in rocks across the face of the Moon for the entire world to read. Who's to stop him? Certainly not fans of top-volume stories and storytimes, who will happily troop along in his wake, undoubtedly hatching some BIG PLANS of their own. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
COWBOY & OCTOPUS by Jon Scieszka
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

The Dynamic Duo set a new standard for unlikely pals in seven mini-tales on the ins and outs—and responsibilities—of buddyhood. The friendship that develops between bulbous blue Octopus and dim-bulb Cowboy begins when Octopus demonstrates that a seesaw works so much better with someone at each end. It survives every ensuing challenge, from a multi-course dinner of disgusting (to Octopus) beans and bacon, bacon and beans and just plain beans to Cowboy's honest, if undiplomatic, opinion that Octopus's new hat "looks like something my horse dropped behind him." Paper-doll cut-outs, the square-jawed cowboy and rubbery octopus almost never change, despite being placed in wildly varied settings assembled from clipped photos, newspaper and wallpaper. And despite vast differences between the retiring, mannerly mollusk and his extroverted bud, the two get along famously. How? It's usually clear enough, but for truly clueless readers, Octopus is generally good for a pithy summation. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2006

Despite the Beatles-reminiscent title, this offering concerns itself with not four, but five of the Founding Dads: John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington), Ben (Franklin) and Tom (Jefferson). Each is imagined in his youth, identified by one characteristic that becomes key to his involvement in the American Revolution. John is bold, writing his name large on the blackboard; Paul is noisy, bellowing out customers' orders in his family's shop; George is honest, confessing to the chopping down of not only the cherry tree, but the whole orchard; Ben is clever, sharing his aphorisms with all who will listen; and Tom is independent, making a model of Monticello instead of a birdhouse out of "ye olde balsa wood." Smith's faux-antiqued illustrations deliver bucket-loads of zany energy, but his text lacks his sometime partner Jon Scieszka's focus. While there is a hallowed place for irreverence in children's literature, one might wish for a work that more evenly balances humor with substance. Still, this may serve as an entry point for kids who think that history is dry as dust, and "Ye Olde True or False Section" really is pretty funny. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
SEEN ART? by Jon Scieszka
by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
FICTION
Released: May 1, 2005

A child goes to the Museum of Modern Art looking for his friend Art, but finds lots of art instead. Compared to the zany antics of its predecessors, this offering is positively restrained. Once the appropriately minimalist collage-and-scribble child enters MoMA, an array of artsy types guides him past works by Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali, Warhol and Monet, among others, offering such helpful commentary as, "Isn't it just everything?" and, "Great atmosphere." Background, characters and typeface presented almost exclusively in a washed-out beige-and-taupe palette, cause the reproduced art to leap off the page. The unusual shape (twice as long as it is high, unopened) adds to a sense of infinitely recessing galleries as our hero vainly searches for Art. When, at last, he finds him, he leaves MoMA with a sense of art—and so will readers, although they may not quite know it. While this effort lacks the clarity of presentation of such recent works as Quentin Blake's Tell Me a Picture (2003) and Anthony Browne's The Shape Game (2003), its enigmatic treatment suits its modernist subject and teases readers with possibilities. (notes on art represented not seen) (Picture book. 7+)Read full book review >
SCIENCE VERSE by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

In 1995, Mrs. Fibonacci laid a Math Curse; this year, it's Mr. Newton who says, " . . . if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything." What follows is a madcap collection of science poetry that lampoons familiar songs ("Glory, glory, evolution") and poems ("Once in first grade I was napping"). The whole lacks the zany unity of its predecessor, opting for an impressionistic tour of scientific terms and principles; the illustrations are less integrated into the text as well, if individually often quite inspired (a set of antiqued nursery rhyme panels are just perfect). Some of the poems rise to the level of near genius (" 'Twas fructose, and the vitamins / Did zinc and dye [red #8]"), while others settle for the satisfyingly gross ("Mary had a little worm. / She thought it was a chigger"). If this offering falls short of the standard set by Math Curse, it will nevertheless find an eager audience, who will hope that the results of Mr. Picasso's curse will soon be forthcoming. (Poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
THE HAPPY HOCKY FAMILY MOVES TO THE COUNTRY! by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2003

The Hockys get a taste (and a smell) of rural living in this belated sequel to Smith's deliciously post-modern primer, The Happy Hocky Family (1993). "In the city you use an alarm clock to wake up. In the country you don't need one. COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO goes the neighbor's rooster at 5:30 in the morning." Seen as minimal, but artfully colored figures floating on fields of brown speckled paper, the Hockys experience a range of delights, from a leaky roof to nearby livestock in shifting winds. Meanwhile they struggle (without success) to make the bird feeder squirrel-proof, to dispose of autumn leaves that can be neither burned nor deposited in the town dump, and to keep the "wild bunny" out of the garden. In time the Hockys once again demonstrate their resilience, and readers will hardly need Smith's assurance that they're "going to be OKAY in the country!" The language moves a little past the prequel's "Dick and Jane" primer level, but the twists are still sudden, sardonic, and as diverting to children as they are to grown-ups. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
PINOCCHIO, THE BOY by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Poor Pinocchio: suddenly everyone, even his friends, is treating him very oddly. Why? Because the Blue Fairy turned him into a boy as he slept, and he hasn't noticed yet. Scattering snowflakes across postmodern pagescapes defined by computer-assisted collages of fragmentary printed matter, towering architecture, and kaleidoscopic arrays of geometric forms, Smith follows his sadly confused ex-puppet on a trek through densely urban "Collodi," where he's pushed out by shop owners, tossed off the very puppet stage on which he'd so recently triumphed, and even ignored by his old buddy, Cricket. At last, the despondent lad spots Geppetto on a giant-screen TV and returns home, where the motherly Blue Fairy waits to explain matters. Pinocchio's joy fills an entire, explosive spread. Like his collaborations with Jon Scieszka (Baloney, Henry P., 2001, etc.), Smith tweaks a classic—or, in this case, its final chapter—for a wild, arty spin-off; though children may be more familiar with the film than the fiction, both characters and context will need no explanation. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)Read full book review >
BALONEY (HENRY P.) by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

It's "Permanent Lifelong Detention" for Henry P. Baloney, unless the tardy alien can come up with "one very good and very believable excuse" for Miss Bugscuffle. Henry earnestly spins the tale of his near-disastrous trip to school: "I misplaced my trusty zimulis, then I . . . um . . . found it on my deski. But . . . someone had put my deski in a torakku." The Math Curse (1995) team of Scieszka and Smith combine talents once again, this time to celebrate wordplay in its near-infinite variety. Henry's story is peppered with words from such diverse sources as Estonian, French, and Inuktitut (there's a "decoder" in the back). Each time a new word occurs for the first time, it is set off in yellow type—the trick is to decode it through illustrations ("zimulis" clearly applies to a standard-issue Quest pencil, number "ZZ") and from context ("I jumped smack in the middle of a . . . razzo launch pad."). Henry himself is an appealingly bug-eyed, freckle-faced green urchin who leaps, fast-talks, and erases his way through a retro-looking space-age world, learning the hard way the importance of linguistic accuracy when he forgets the Astrosus word for "thank you," using instead the word for "doofbrain." Clearly intending to do for words what the previous book did for numbers, the illustrations and narrative sizzle along in a madcap rush until the story is brought to an abrupt halt when the humorless Miss Bugscuffle decides to allow Henry to apply his talents to the day's assignment of writing a tall tale. Carefully—if zanily—adhering to the "three-finger rule" (no more than three unfamiliar words per page), Henry P. Baloney's story might go a long way toward convincing kids that learning to read is an adventure in itself. If only all pedagogy were this much fun. (Picture book. 6-12)Read full book review >
SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

This latest bright, glib collection of tales irreverently updates Aesop-like fables as Beavis and Butthead might have rewritten them. Scieszka and Smith (Summer Reading Is Killing Me, p. 816, etc.) forego tradition by ditching standard animal characters for the likes of a squid, a musk ox, and an animated stick of beef jerky. The introduction explains that fables were a way people could "gossip about anybody—as long as you could change their name to something like ‘Lion' or ‘Mouse' or ‘Donkey' first." Some of the morals work (when Skunk, Musk Ox, and Cabbage argue about who smells, the moral is "He who smelt it, dealt it"); others are tags without the snap. In illustrations that are as fresh and eyecatching as ever, the goofiness is as enticing as junk food, the colors Fruit-Loop bright, but fables usually have purpose, not punchlines; without such purpose, this is just another joke book for the '90s. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
SUMMER READING IS KILLING ME by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 1998

In this latest Time Warp Trio entry, Fred, Joe, and Sam have sworn off using that volume of dangerous time-travel, The Book. When Fred sticks Sam's summer reading list inside it, they find themselves whisked off, not to another time, but to a world where all the characters from the books on the list are congregated, where the evil characters are determined to crush all the good characters and take over the stories. Aided by the Girl, who seems to be a composite of female heroines from all the formula series books the boys never read, Fred, Joe, and Sam battle the leader of the bad guys, an embittered Mr. Bear ("Just because I'm a teddy bear, I get no respect") to find The Book and get back to the real world. Filled with humorous action and suspense, this book will have special appeal to those who get the hip-deep references to dozens of children's books (without such understanding, the middle section becomes somewhat incomprehensible). With plenty of action and silly humor, the book itself is a pretty good addition to summer reading lists. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 7-11) Read full book review >
HOORAY FOR DIFFENDOOFER DAY! by Dr. Seuss
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1998

When Theodor Geisel died in 1991, he had left behind a half-sketched idea for a book, an ode to joy and eccentricity in education. Enter the nimble Prelutsky and dexterous Smith to finish the project, about a school run by a gaggle of latitudinarians—"Miss Bobble teaches listening,/Miss Wobble teaches smelling,/Miss Fribble teaches laughing,/And Miss Quibble teaches yelling." Their charges take to the curriculum likes bees to honey, until the dour principal Mr. Lowe ("We think he wears false eyebrows. In fact, we're sure it's so. We've heard he takes them off at night . . . I guess we'll never know") informs them that they must pass a standardized test, or the school will be closed and the students shuffled off to dreary Flobbertown. They pass muster, wholesale, and send choruses of the "Diffendoofer Song" to the heavens. The magic here is in the marriage of Seuss, Prelutsky, and Lane: The Prelutsky voice is delightfully obvious, but he has blended whole slices of Seussian verse into his lines, while Smith has laced the crazy, deliciously colored artwork with cameos of characters and books that any of Dr. Seuss's fans will recognize. A lengthy afterword (containing reproductions of Geisel's early drafts) by his editor, Janet Schulman, explains how the book evolved. It's a model collaboration, because the spirits involved—including Schulman's—are so obviously kindred. (Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH by Roald Dahl
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1996

This newly illustrated edition of an avowed children's favorite has all the makings of a classic match-up: Milne had Shepard, Carroll had Tenniel, and now Dahl has Smith. Yes, there is a movie tied in to all of this, but more importantly, author and illustrator were made for each other, and it's of little consequence that it took almost 35 years for them to meet. (Fiction. 6-12) Read full book review >
MATH CURSE by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

An unsuspecting student falls victim to the Math Curse when her teacher notes that ``You can think of almost everything as a math problem.'' Suddenly, everything is: ``I wake up at 7:15. It takes me 10 minutes to get dressed, 15 minutes to eat my breakfast, and 1 minute to brush my teeth . . . if my bus leaves at 8:00, will I make it on time?'' If it's not a time problem, it's equivalents (``How many inches in a foot?''), multiplication, nondecimal numbers, money combinations, and more. What's the cure? It comes to her in a dream: A problem with an answer is no problem at all. Smith's big paintings-cum-collage are, as usual, way strange, perfectly complementing the wild, postmodern page design with concatenations of small objects, fragments, and geometric shapes and figures, all placed on dark, grainy backgrounds. Another calculated triumph from the fevered brows that brought forth The Stinky Cheese Man (1992) and other instant classics, this one with a bit of brainwork deftly woven in. Readers can check their answers on the back cover. (Picture book. 7-9) Read full book review >
THE HAPPY HOCKY FAMILY by Lane Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

Seventeen extremely short stories to delight the pre-primer crowd and their younger sibs. Smith parodies the smugly middle- class textbook, transforming boringly repeated lines into comic resignation in such dramas as a burst balloon: ``I have a balloon. Do you have a balloon? I have a balloon. My balloon is red...POP! I have a string. Do you have a string? I have a string.'' The Hockies may be a classic family of parents, boy, girl, baby, and pet, but these events—like those in Mother Goose or schoolyard lore—hinge on misfortune: ants escape; the contents of pockets shrivel in the wash; grandmother's perfume smells like too many flowers; a cousin habitually breaks toys; sibs exact retributive justice. The stories' easy informality is supported by illustrations featuring wonderfully expressive stick figures on paper-bag tan, spiced up with touches of bright red, blue, and mustard; Smith's graphics are disarmingly simple, but nonetheless expertly deployed. Fun for all. (Easy reader. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

"Irrepressibly zany fun. (Fiction/Picture book. 5+)"
From the front jacket copy ("...56 action-packed pages, 75% more than those old 32-page 'Brand-X' books") to the Little Red Hen's back-cover diatribe ("Who is this ISBN guy?"), the parodic humor here runs riot. Read full book review >
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GOOFY by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1992

A third fast-paced entry in the ``Time Warp Trio'' series (initiated with Knights of the Kitchen Table, 1991) takes the boys from watching a cowboys-and-Indians show that one of them describes as ``just a bad character actor reinforcing mindless stereotypes'' to a parodied western adventure that's just as lively but more PC: The cowboys are multiracial, and when the boys are captured by Indians, there's a debate about their potentially gruesome fate; ultimately, the good braves save the boys from Custer's cavalry and are in turn saved by the boys as they contrive to return to the present. The humor's not quite so freewheeling here, but kids will enjoy the nonstop action, undeterred by the occasional more thoughtful details. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
GLASSES--WHO NEEDS 'EM? by Lane Smith
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

In this visually sophisticated look at a boy who assertively debates with a doctor who points out that he needs glasses, the mildly witty text is secondary to a wonderful series of out-of- focus illustrations of various visages equipped with specs: not just Mom, Sis, inventors, and `' `monster-movie' stuntpeople,'' but pink elephants, planets, and potatoes. The real clincher is not the list but the glasses themselves: on the last spread, everything finally comes clear. The idea may be limited, but the accompanying illustrations are comical and composed with remarkable skill. Offbeat but fascinating. (Picture book. 3+)*justify no* Read full book review >
KNIGHTS OF THE KITCHEN TABLE by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1991

The author of the hilarious The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (1989) comes up with an entertaining formula in this first ``Time Warp Trio'' story: Narrator Joe is given a magic book (''The Book'') that transports him and two friends to King Arthur's Britain, where they find themselves confronted by a fearsome Black Knight—who's easy to defeat with some quick dodging when he's in mid-charge. Then Lancelot, Gawain, et al. happen by and take the boys for heroes—a reputation they sustain by tricking the loathsome giant who's menacing the castle into fighting the terrible dragon (Smaug) that has also just turned up. Scieszka unobtrusively slips in several classic references and defines some chivalric jargon by having the boys comically paraphrase it; there is some daring juvenile humor on the subject of the giant's various atrocious smells, and the contrast between the boys' breezy manner and the knights' pseudo-formality is also good for several laughs. A little forced, but this should serve its purpose. Smith's drawings deftly reflect the blend of everyday kid with zany, mock-gruesome adventure. See also a simultaneously published sequel, The Not-So-Jolly Roger, reviewed below (in brief). (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
THE NOT-SO-JOLLY ROGER by Jon Scieszka
ADVENTURE
Released: May 1, 1991

A second ``Time Warp Trio'' story (cf. Knights of the Kitchen Table, above), only slightly less clever than the first. The boys now find themselves on a desert island. Blackbeard comes to bury treasure—and his two helpers; he catches the boys and takes them to the pirate ship (Israel Hands is among those aboard). There's some suspense, more slapstick, and the singing of some fine chanteys before the boys are again saved by The Book. Smith's funny/wicked pirates make an excellent contribution. ``Historical afterword'' on Blackbeard; another (tongue firmly in cheek) on the boys. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS by Jon Scieszka
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1989

One of life's more important lessons is that a second view of the same events may yield a story that is entirely different from another but equally "true." As Alexander Wolf tells his story, he was innocently trying to borrow a cup of sugar from a little pig when he sneezed so hard that the pig's obviously inadequate straw house fell down and killed him, so—rather than let all that good ham go to waste—the wolf ate him. But when the third little pig, safe in his brick house, not only refused to discuss loaning sugar but was rude about the wolf's Granny, the wolf tried to force the door, the pig called the cops, and the wolf was jailed—complaining that reporters blew the story all out of proportion and that he was framed. Scieszka carries off this revision with suitably mordant humor, ably reflected in Smith's dark, elegantly sophisticated illustrations. Not for little children, but middle grades and up should be entertained while taking the point about the unreliability of witnesses. Read full book review >