Books by Tony Ross

NOT JUST A BOOK by Jeanne Willis
Released: Oct. 1, 2018

"Fun but forgettable. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Books are more than just words and ink. Read full book review >
BAH! HUMBUG! by Michael Rosen
Released: Sept. 11, 2018

"An accessible and funny morality tale that's useful reading for work-obsessed parents as well as their children. (Fiction. 8-12)"
Veteran British children's author Rosen gives a new twist to an old tale. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2018

"Layered and shocking; to be read with the knowledge that a conversation on war will surely follow. (Picture book. 6-10)"
The story of a soldier ant that's true to ant colonies while also an allegory of war. Read full book review >
I WANT MY DAD! by Tony  Ross
Released: May 1, 2018

"An odd ending note may keep readers from saying 'I want it again!' (Picture book. 4-7)"
The Little Princess is jealous of the other dads in the kingdom and the relationships they have with their children. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2018

"A comic episode with a bit of a bite (implied, not explicit) at the end. (Picture book. 6-8)"
A nearsighted T. Rex stumbles into a chain of calamities after losing his eyeglasses. Read full book review >
THE MIDNIGHT GANG by David Walliams
Released: Feb. 27, 2018

"An entertaining tale that will definitely find an audience, but fans of icky, vicious comedy deserve better. (Fiction. 9-11)"
Plucky, sometimes-mean children come together to defeat diabolical hospital administrators and evil headmasters. Read full book review >
OUR KID by Tony  Ross
by Tony Ross, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: Oct. 1, 2017

"A tall tale with lots of fun kidding around. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A far-fetched excuse for tardiness at school with a twist ending—and dinopirates. Read full book review >
Released: June 27, 2017

"Fans will be delighted by these further misadventures of the rumpled but loving—and lovable—Cornwallis clan. (Fiction. 11-13)"
Impulsive acts, severely tested friendships, and possible witchy curses—all set against the customary backdrop of domestic chaos—presage big changes for Binny and her family. Read full book review >
TROLL STINKS by Jeanne Willis
Released: April 1, 2017

"Let's be honest. The goats are the stinkers. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Two kids—as in young goats—prove just why that creature has a tough reputation. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 28, 2017

"This Dahl-esque tale may not be quite scrumdiddlyumptious, but it's a mostly entertaining one. (Historical fiction. 7-10)"
Jack and his grandfather, a former RAF pilot, are inseparable, even though Grandpa's grasp on reality is slipping. Read full book review >
DEMON DENTIST by David Walliams
Released: March 1, 2016

"A quick pull on a reliable, if not exactly minty-fresh, formula. (pictorial cast list) (Horror. 9-11)"
Walliams drills into a primal fear with this tale of a new dentist with a decidedly evil agenda. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2016

"Good, clean fun. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Never mind a monster under the bed; this one's under the tub. Read full book review >
SLUG NEEDS A HUG! by Jeanne Willis
Released: Oct. 1, 2015

"Sluggy may not have limbs for hugs, but the book feels like a big, generous embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A mopey mollusk seeks approval from his mom, but can't get the hugs he desperately wants, in a bittersweet, slimy story. Read full book review >
RITA’S RHINO by Tony  Ross
Released: April 1, 2015

"Children's bookshelves can always use another picture book that combines a clever, well-meaning child with an animal hero and hilarious artwork. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Both Rita and her new pet rhinoceros—an escapee from the local zoo—learn that it's not so easy for a rhino to be a city girl's pet. Read full book review >
BOA'S BAD BIRTHDAY by Jeanne Willis
Released: April 1, 2014

"Festive fare that ultimately misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-8)"
On the cover of this picture book, an impossibly cute, sad-looking boa lolls from a tree branch, birthday hat on his head. What could possibly be the matter? Read full book review >
DRAT THAT CAT! by Tony  Ross
Released: Sept. 1, 2013

"A must for any child with a cat in the family. (Picture book. 4-7)"
When it comes to mischief, no pet can top a pampered cat. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 13, 2012

"Fully faithful to the voice Danziger gave Amber Brown, this visit with an old friend will totally satisfy readers. (afterword by Danziger's niece, 'the real Amber Brown') (Fiction. 7-11)"
Amber Brown fans will rejoice; against all odds, their favorite protagonist is back. Read full book review >
FLY, CHICK, FLY! by Jeanne Willis
Released: Sept. 1, 2012

"This gentle read-aloud looks forward to the time when the child will have a young one of her own. (Picture book. 3-7)"
The third of three owl chicks hesitates to fly, requiring much encouragement from its parents. Read full book review >
HIPPOSPOTAMUS by Jeanne Willis
Released: Sept. 1, 2012

"Eeeew. But in a good way. (Picture book. 5-7)"
A mysterious pink spot on Hippo's bum provides the MacGuffin for a lottamus of silly wordplay capped by a deliciously gross denouement. Read full book review >
WHO AM I? by Phinn Gervase
by Phinn Gervase, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: April 1, 2012

"Why ask children to think deep thoughts when you can offer a superficial variation on the common 'Where's Mama?' theme instead? (Picture book. 5-7)"
Two picture-book veterans offer a phoned-in collaboration that blows off not only the Big Question it poses, but the plot, too. Read full book review >
I WANT MY LIGHT ON! by Tony  Ross
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

This long-running British series (the first Little Princess book was published in 1986) has been adapted for television there. In this installment, her dad (in a jacket and tie, wearing his crown) has read her a story and is about to turn off the light when the Little Princess shouts, "I WANT MY LIGHT ON!"—with her entire face subsumed into one of those scarlet, tooth-edged mouths. She's not afraid of the dark but of ghosts. Dad checks under the bed, and General, Admiral, Doctor and Maid assure her there are no ghosts. The Little Princess's room is a bright yellow, but readers see glimpses of the castle's arches and stone steps past her doorway—and then there is a little ghost behind her bedpost, with a skeleton toy the shape of Little Princess's own stuffie. Ghost and Princess scare each other, and he dashes off to his mother, who, as she stirs her pot of frog, worm and spider stew, assures him that there are no such things as little girls.... The pictures are clear, bold and exaggerated to great humorous effect. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
OLD DOG by Jeanne Willis
by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: Aug. 1, 2010

Does Grandpa need new tricks to get the attention of canine whippersnappers? Three Young Pups whine, whimper and snort in protest when their mother wants them to visit Grandpa. He scratches, he's boring and he has dog breath. Mother reminds them of Grandpa's kind heart, but at his house, when Grandpa starts to tell stories of his youth, the kids tune out; seeing their disinterest, Grandpa wanders away disconsolately. Not long after, Grandpa reappears in a bright circus costume and dazzles the Pups with a series of daring deeds: juggling and balancing on a two-wheeler and even getting shot out of a cannon. As he flies through the air, a buoyant Grandpa declares, "There's life in the old dog yet!"—and now the kids can't get enough of his yarns. Ross's pictures add several sly jokes—Grandpa trying to play Twister is priceless. A clever design touch has two page spreads of photos from Grandpa's album on inside covers; those in the front are black-and-white, and those in the back in full color. Great message about mutual respect, crisply told. (Picture book. 3-6)
Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

Eating right and exercising is undoubtedly an excellent prescription for good health. Unfortunately, good advice, however well intentioned, rarely makes for an enjoyable story, particularly when it's delivered in a condescending tone. Willis invites readers to laugh at, not with, her characters by making them both fat and stupid. The anthropomorphized animals, shown living in squalor and wearing stereotypical lower-class clothing, believe that their sofa is shrinking. They comfort themselves with food and sleep and television until the day that they simply can't fit into their cozy house. Setting out to find their "distant relatives," the "cunning tiger" and "wild wolf," they travel the world only to wind up back home again, much slimmer and much happier. Ross's typically scratchy illustrations capture the action of the plot but can't inject enough individuality into the characters to make readers really care about them. His comedic skills are sorely underused, which is too bad as the heavy-handed message could have used some help. Skip this sermon and enjoy a nice walk outside instead. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2009

The first U.S. edition of a large-type, large-format gathering of standard Mother Goose rhymes—plus the occasional interloper, such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." The compiler pares "Old Mother Hubbard" and "Tom, the Piper's Son" down to one verse each, but lets "Simple Simon" ramble on for five and the title rhyme for a long four. There is no particular order or progression to the 49 selections, and a "frame story" in which Nelly asks her Granddad for a story "about real things" adds little to the experience. Aside from a Little Piggy who "had none" while exercising on a treadmill, Ross dresses everyone in old-time garb in his loosely drawn illustrations, and interprets the verses with slavish literalness. Although readers are almost certain to find one or two rhymes previously unfamiliar to them, overall it's an ordinary outing, unlikely to displace the collections illustrated by Richard Scarry or Rosemary Wells, or to make much of an impression on the diapered set. (Nursery rhymes. 2-4) Read full book review >
MS. WIZ by Terence Blacker
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Clad in tight jeans and sporting black nail polish, spell-casting Ms. Wiz, with an omniscient cat and curious rat in tow, transforms the Class Three children from little terrors to terrific pupils. Quickly labeled a witch, this unorthodox teacher prefers the term "Paranormal Operative" instead. Peculiar lessons increase student achievement and provide entertainment: Wiz's mathematics, for instance, involves a well-trained owl who relieves himself on command when students answer incorrectly. Naturally, adults question her methods and rejoice when Ms. Wiz resigns to travel "where magic is needed." Sequel In Stitches with Ms. Wiz (ISBN: 978-0-7614-5549-3) reunites student Jack, suffering from appendicitis, with Ms. Wiz, now disguised as Dr. Wisdom in a hospital rife with loose rodents and displayed organs. The first entry's stronger than the second, as the story's magic excels more in the classroom than in the operating room. Ross's exuberant lines convey the outlandish situations, though many characters are one-dimensional in these British series offerings, originally published in 1988. Instead of plot development, the focus relies too heavily on cheap jokes for little laughs. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2008

In a tale pointedly addressed to overprotective adults, a mother mouse finally lets her littlest one go. The smallest of ten siblings, Colin is forced to stay indoors all day with his mother hovering about—dosing him with unspecified medicine from small brown bottles in Ross's typically bright, slapdash watercolors. At last, though, she takes Grandma's suggestion that he'll be all right if he's wrapped in a big ball of cotton. Colin ventures outside and the chase is on, as he's mistaken for a snowball by a boy, a tasty piece of bread by a duck and a juicy rabbit by a fox. Back home he saunters, cotton-free and exhilarated. After that, there's no holding him back, and as the final scene indicates, even cats had better be on the lookout. Parents will get the point. Young children daunted by how dangerous to mice and other small creatures Colin's world turns out to be may be happier with the sibling support in Martin Waddell's Tiny's Big Adventure (2004), illustrated by John Lawrence. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
BRAVO, MAX! by Sally Grindley
Released: March 27, 2007

Continuing the exchange of notes and postcards begun in Dear Max (2006), renowned children's author D.J. Lucas and her greatest fan, young Max, provide mutual support in the course of another busy year. For her, it's one of writing and promotional traveling and for him, one of struggling with a trollish babysitter and a firming relationship between his widowed mother and a new friend. It's an exciting time for Lucas, whose My Teacher's a Nutcase is being made into a film (starring "Tom Trews" and "Jennifer Aniseed") even as she's trying her hand at creating a higher-toned novel. Meanwhile, Max deals with his unhappiness partly by concealing it from his mother, and partly by composing a play in which his sitter is an ogre and Mom's bearded, deceptively friendly caller is dubbed Fungus Face. Including playwriting tips and brief passages of dialogue along with savvy advice and loyal expressions of encouragement, the epistolary back-and-forth, liberally strewn with Max's line drawings, creates two equally engaging storylines—and may get the creative juices flowing in some young readers, too. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
DEAR MAX by Sally Grindley
by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: July 1, 2006

Nine-year-old Max strikes up a friendship with his favorite author, D.J. Lucas in this epistolary novel. The letters fly, from January to December, as Max shares his school challenges, family sadness and medical woes. D.J. is a good listener and knows how to respond to a little boy's concerns. And she has her own worries—from her fears over sky-diving to the challenges of writing a novel that does not want to be written. Ross's childlike illustrations dot many of the letters and are a perfect light touch. Grindley stays true to the letter format, asking few probing questions, which let D.J. (and the reader) fill in the unspoken spaces. This should inspire children to write letters to authors—and others in their lives. The friendship that develops is real and honest and sustaining to both child and adult. A tribute to the power of letter-writing and imagination. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
GORILLA! GORILLA! by Jeanne Willis
Released: June 1, 2006

This colorful work, rendered in pastels, is another collaboration between the team that made readers laugh at Tadpole's Promise (2005). Here the subject is the suspenseful chase of a mother mouse by a killer gorilla as she searches for her lost baby. The refrain, "Help! Help! He'll catch me! / He'll squash me and scratch me, / He'll mince me and mash me, / And crunch me up for lunch!" is heard throughout as she travels around the world with the gorilla close behind. Ross cleverly introduces a variety of countries, landscapes and transportation, while portraying humorous situations of the native animals. In China, a panda is eating his bamboo dinner with chopsticks, and a chipmunk wearing a ten-gallon hat appears in western America. The expression of the gorilla is especially sweet as he presents the mother mouse with her baby in the Arctic and asks from whom she is running. Utterly embarrassed, she allows the gorilla to carry both her and the baby back home to the rainforest, gently teaching the folly of a rush to judgment. Illustrations are ideal for group readings. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
NOTSO HOTSO by Anne Fine
by Anne Fine, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: March 7, 2006

A self-described fastidious mutt deals with mange in this chapter book from Fine. Anthony isn't sure what's worse, the itching or the indignity, but he is certain that he's unhappy. His humans are volubly grossed out, his doggie companions all sneer cattily and the "great snoring slug-colored heap on next-door's wall" (the cat next door) calls him a "bare rug." Things start to look up when his owner takes him to the vet, but—horror of horrors—he is shaved. It is Anthony's stream-of-consciousness narration that makes this tale stand out, as nothing much really happens. His mood and tone shifts with mercurial dogginess with every turn of events, umbrage ratcheting ever higher with each new insult. Unfortunately, Anthony isn't a particularly likable character, and although it's funny at first, his relentlessly superior attitude wears thin on both characters and readers. The resolution, such as it is—he literally frightens an aged dog to death with a shaving-inspired lion act—doesn't so much climax as peter out. Ross's cartoons go a long way toward lightening the tone, but in the end they can't save Anthony from himself. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
TADPOLE'S PROMISE by Jeanne Willis
Released: June 1, 2005

In this deceptively innocuous love story, a caterpillar and a polliwog pledge their love, promising each other that they will never change. Fat chance, obviously: Each time they reunite, polliwog has grown new limbs. When he loses his tail, the caterpillar declares her heart is broken and huffs off to nurse her sorrows in a cocoon. Ross illustrates this economically told tale with equally sketchy watercolors, creating a serene natural setting, but turning it sideways so that the gutter becomes the boundary between land and water, and keeping background detail to a minimum to maintain visual focus on the rainbow-hued caterpillar and her "shiny black pearl." In the end, she emerges rather different in form herself, but when she repentantly flutters down to a certain frog at the water's edge, the romance comes to an abrupt and fatal end. The setup being perfect enough to leave even adult readers unsettled, this makes a promising addition to the "share if you dare" list, next to, say, Chris Raschka's Arlene Sardine (1998). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
ENGLISH, FRESH SQUEEZED! by Carol Diggory Shields
Released: April 1, 2005

The third in the BrainJuice series, this offering seeks to convey the parts of speech, grammatical rules and the principles of composition in 40 poems. It's an interesting notion: As the prefatory note to her English teacher indicates, even avid readers frequently find the rules of the language downright painful, so why not render them into funny verse. The answer might possibly be that this verse is so light (approaching helium) that it's hard to take seriously the very weighty concepts borne therein. Careful reading will reveal that there's a lot of worthwhile information—the pair of poems on similes and metaphors lead one to the other nicely, and the poem on verb tense explains the past and future perfect extraordinarily well. But the verse itself is that lockstep rhyming doggerel that so crowds the universe of children's poetry and is consequently all too easy to dismiss. Shields introduces topics at the top of the page by appropriate quotes from such sources as Twain, Shaw and The Chicago Manual of Style, but these luminaries are not exploited to their full capacity as companions to the primary content. There's just not enough pulp in the glass. (Poetry. 9-12)Read full book review >
I HATE SCHOOL by Jeanne Willis
Released: July 1, 2004

Never have the horrors of school been more forcefully, or adroitly, expressed. Why does young Honor Brown hate school? "My teacher is a warty toad! / My classroom is a hole! / The cafeteria ladies feed us worms, / and rabbit poo, and coal!" Is it really that bad? Yes, the teachers "throw us out of windows, / And make us walk on glass. / I've heard they cut your head off / If you're talking during class." All of this receives explicit expression in Ross's loosely inked scenes as, clad in tartan skirts and floppy hats, or the equivalent uniforms for boys, Honor and her classmates suffer or inflict each torture with uproarious glee or dismay. Of course, when it's time to graduate, Honor tearfully declares that she's really going to miss it all. Willis will have readers or listeners rolling in the aisles—and what a refreshing twist on all of those blandly reassuring "First Day of School" stories. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
DON’T LET GO! by Jeanne Willis
Released: May 1, 2003

Achieving the skill of riding a two-wheeled bike is the first step on the path to independence. Dad spends time with Megan in the park, supporting her with encouraging words and with his steady hands when she finally takes off on her own. Parallel emotions and concerns of father and daughter are expressed in the rhyming text as the theme of letting go is brought out in Megan's anxiety versus Dad's apprehensive uncertainty of the latitude that bike-riding will provide. Willis deftly brings it all together as she completes the circle of emotions by having Megan repeat the reassuring words that Dad says at the start of the bike lesson: "Daddy, I'm here. I won't let go, / Not until you say / Hold on tight. I love you, so / We'll do this together, okay?" Watercolors outlined in black ink reflect the active scenes, and close-ups of the characters figuratively evoke the sentiments involved. Wholesome fare for both parent and child. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
CENTIPEDE’S 100 SHOES by Tony  Ross
Released: April 1, 2003

In this cross between Jonathan London's Froggy Gets Dressed (1997) and Stuart Murphy's "MathStart" series, a little centipede buys a hundred shoes after stubbing a toe, and then spends most of the next few days learning the error of his ways. First, because he finds out too late that, like most centipedes, he actually has only 42 feet; second, because it takes most of a day to tie even that many, and then to take them off at bedtime; and third, because he then discovers that he needs socks, too. In his signature cartoon style, Ross creates a buggy setting for Little Centipede, and fills it up with piles of small brown shoes and multicolored socks for young viewers to count. Realizing at last that it's just not worth the effort, Little Centipede gives his footwear away to (another counting opportunity) five spiders, four beetles, two woodlice, a grasshopper—and two delighted worms. As Little Centipede's mom, who should know better, indulges his folly without comment, the tale's internal logic isn't sewn down very tightly; still, children who struggle with tying even two shoes will sympathize with Little Centipede's situation. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Newly fledged chapter-book readers will gloat along with the funny, furry narrators in these two tales of feline triumph. In "Blossom's Revenge," open warfare ensues when sly, spoiled six-year-old Prissy Pinkerton comes for a stay. As Blossom tells it, Prissy is determined to make her life miserable. She manages always to seem to be the innocent, when, in fact, she's the instigator. But even Prissy's no match for a flour-coated "ghost cat," or a mouse in her mashed potatoes. In the second story, sudden fame comes to sedate old "Picasso Perkins" when a visiting art gallery owner sees a sheaf of children's cat sketches decorated with pawprints. The language is droll and sly, "but even at my advanced age, I am quite nippy on my feet in an emergency and thankfully, Lexie cannot follow me through the cat flap." Ross (Little Wolf, Forest Detective, p. 948, etc.) sprinkles comic, ink drawings liberally through Geras's large-type text, perfectly capturing the cats' sense of weary—no, lazy—superiority. Fans of Lauber's Purrfectly Purrfect: Life at the Acatemy (2000) will purr over this, too. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

From Frettnin Forest, Beastshire, the orthographically challenged correspondent introduced in Little Wolf's Book of Badness (1999) again reports nefarious doings and silly misadventures to his unsympathetic parents. A number of local baby animals having gone missing, along with some from a visiting circus, and Little Wolf and his associates at the newly formed Yelloweyes Forest Detective Agency take up their mail-order sleuth kits and spring into action. As usual, it all turns out to be the doing of Mr. Twister the fox, who with a homemade gene-modifying machine is recombining his captives into such useful new creatures as cat/spiders to guard his digs, a vegetarian lamb/lion, and a succulent hyena/mouse that can't hide no matter how tall the grass. A Gen-Next e-mailer in the making, Little Wolf adorns his letters and blot-marred handwritten postscripts with creative spelling and made up words—"But do not fret and frown, we will solve this case soonly, easy cheesy. (Probly.)"—to which Ross adds plenty of sketchy cartoon portraits and vignettes. Once Mr. Twister has been sent packing (to return, no doubt, in future episodes), Little Wolf, his friends, and even obnoxious little brother Smellybreff throw over detective work to join the circus. Readers unfamiliar with this import's first three installments may trip over a few continuing plot threads, but there's plenty of noodleheaded humor, plus healthy doses of deduction and derring-do, to keep the howls coming. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
IT’S A FAIR DAY, AMBER BROWN by Paula Danziger
Released: June 1, 2001

It's always a fair day or better with the irrepressible Amber Brown around. In this third addition to the easy reader A Is for Amber series, Danziger (Get Ready for Second Grade, Amber Brown, above, etc.) sends Amber and her best friend Justin off to the Poconos (or Poke-a-Nose, in Amber-speak) with their families on vacation. Amber's parents have been fighting (in back-story development that foreshadows their divorce in the Amber stories for older readers), and she hopes that will stop and everyone will have a perfect day at the county fair. They all have fun on the rides, but another parental fight erupts, and Amber, feeling lost and rejected, really does get lost when she tries to find Justin's happier family. Her parents see that their fighting has hurt their child, and the tension is resolved in a satisfying conclusion with some tears, hugs, and a teddy-bear prize from Amber's dad to her mom. Ross provides her usual cheerful and humorous illustrations in watercolor and ink, with lots of funny faces from the children. Danziger shows her usual deft touch with childhood feelings and family dynamics, adding another original story with genuine humor and emotion to the growing chronicle of Amber's life. (Easy reader. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2001

First- and second-grade teachers (and their students) will be especially interested in this laugh-out-loud, first-person story of Amber's first days in second grade. Ross continues his significant contribution to the A Is for Amber easy reader series with his expressive watercolor-and-ink illustrations that always set a cheerful, humorous tone. Danziger (It's a Fair Day, Amber Brown, below, etc.), with her pitch-perfect view of a child's emotions, zeroes in on all the anxieties of a new school year: an unknown new teacher, uncertainty about friends, a snotty queen bee, and a teddy bear backpack that invites teasing comments. Amber's new teacher is a delight: Ms. Light, a denim-clad, hip lady with light-up lightbulb earrings and lots of information about light and electricity. (Move over, Ms. Frizzle!) The members of the second-grade class are introduced with Danziger's deadpan, punny humor: Freddie, who can do armpit music; Fredrich, who picks his nose; and Hannah, who clearly has her claws out for Amber. Before long, Amber stands up to Hannah Burton ("Look, Hannah BURPton. Stop it") and, in a satisfying conclusion, vows with confidence that she'll be reading chapter books before long because she is indeed ready for second grade. The stage is set for more tales about Ms. Light's Bright Lights, and Amber's adoring fans will be ready for more second-grade fun. (Easy reader. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: March 31, 2001

In this second book about Harry the Poisonous Centipede (1998) our intrepid hero and his friend George are captured by a "hoo-man" and are catapulted into a series of adventures precipitated by the need to find their way home. Banks, in the Indian in the Cupboard books, has previously used the traditional device of having an inanimate object or a tiny creature as the focus of a story with great success. But in spite of an unusual hero and a potentially interesting premise, this book is seriously flawed. The condescending, intrusive, irritating voice of the narrator dooms it from the start. Do you want facts about centipedes? The reader is not exactly "really lucky to have me to tell you about them." Again and again poor Harry is left in the dark about key elements in his adventures, but "you can know because I'll tell you." Most of the adventures suffer from poor construction and repetition. Although every episode places the centipedes in mortal danger and they land on their many feet every time, they succeed more often by lucky intervention than by ingenuity. Just in case the reader is unaware of these fortunate coincidences, that pesky narrator is there with asides and reminders, and to state outright that sheer luck is responsible for the heroes' escape. Ross's black-and-white, engaging illustrations provide lively visual clarity, but they cannot save this mess. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
WHAT A TRIP, AMBER BROWN by Paula Danziger
Released: March 1, 2001

This Amber Brown easy reader, aimed at younger readers than the originals, feels choppy and a little too involved with bathroom humor for its own good, even considering the audience. Amber and her pal Justin are headed to the mountains for a vacation with their moms and Justin's three-year-old brother Danny. The journey starts out with the kids horsing around in the car—"Poke a nose. Poke a nose," they guffaw, headed as they are for the Poconos—and then Danny "making a really disgusting sound": Yup, Danny's put his diapers to good use. When they finally arrive, Amber and Justin head for the swimming pool, though Amber isn't much of a swimmer, unlike Justin, who cavorts like a fish. "Actually, Justin and I call it the swimming 'ool' because our moms told us that there must not be any pee in the pool." (That passes for the educational content of the book, that and "Oh dear—a deer.") Later, they have a sleep-out with their fathers, who have come for the weekend, which is crashed by the uninvited Danny, but a neat time is had by all. Ross's warm artwork feels lost in Danziger's seemingly random text that spends most of its time taking stabs at infantile humor. On the other hand, this and its companion, It's Justin Time, Amber Brown (ISBN 0-399-23470-5), will serve as primers for the Captain Underpants crowd. (Easy reader. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

Most schoolchildren in the primary grades study lifecycles in science class, often focusing on frogs to observe their dramatic metamorphosis. This droll picture book by Willis (author of the Dr. Xargle series) follows several different species as each young'un questions a parent about his or her looks as a baby, from the little boy on the cover through a baboon, hippopotamus, leopard, ostrich, hyena, warthog, and chameleon. All the parents answer that their babies looked like smaller versions of Mom and Dad, with most of the answers including a delicious pun relating to that particular animal's looks or attributes. (The hyena mommy replies that her baby "looked just like your dad and we laughed and laughed!") Of course, the little bullfrog is another story entirely, and at first he is horrified by the baby pictures his mother shows him. In disbelief, he vows "never to trust his mother again," until he hears his brothers and sisters singing a clever song detailing the frog lifecycle and realizes that all frogs must go through the same stages of development. The words to the song are included in the text, and can be sung to an original tune (music appended) or to a traditional folk tune. The amusing full-color illustrations by Ross (illustrator of the Amber Brown and Dr. Xargle series) are a delight, with sly additions of humor, such as the young ostrich wearing her mom's green high heels and the mother snake putting on her lipstick in the reflection of a pond. A fine choice for a frog-themed story time or for integrating a satisfying read-aloud into science class. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 4, 2000

The spelling-challenged correspondent of Little Wolf's Book of Badness (1999) and Little Wolf's Diary of Daring Deeds (p.641) turns from would-be schoolmaster to a new vocation in this heavily illustrated eyeroller. Thanks to some canny advertising ("Learn secret powers from our Bigbad ghost like how to popup up all of a suddenly like toast . . ."), Little Wolf and his friends Yeller and Stubbs, and little brother Smellybreff, draw a crowd of prospective students to Haunted Hall School—only to have them frightened away by the bottle-dwelling, "bakebean" chomping ghost of Uncle Bigbad. But boastful Bigbad also offers a way to stave off financial ruin, promising to share his ability to uncover hidden treasure if the younglings can find someone he can't scare. Enter Normus, a bear cub with a big enough chip on his shoulder to stand up to Bigbad—but enter also Mister Twister the fox, master of disguise, who takes advantage of a distraction to, well, spirit Bigbad and his bottle away. Little Wolf et al. reinvent themselves as the Yelloweyes Forest Detective Agency ("Tracking Tricking Dizgizzing Our Speciality") and trot off, hot on the trail. Stay tuned. Ross scatters inkblots and line drawings liberally across the pages of Little Wolf's letters home, capturing the combination of low-level-foolery and creative orthography that characterizes this farcical import. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: May 16, 2000

Whybrow's (Little Wolf's Book of Badness, 1999) second Little Wolf story includes every element needed to make an engrossing read for children: lost gold, travel, a villain, a ghost, and no parents! Little Wolf is joined by his cousin Yeller at his dead uncle's Academy. They decide to give the Academy a new image by dubbing it the Adventure Academy and equipping it with the scariest rides that money can buy. They're rich, you see; they have found Uncle Bigbad's gold! As their plans progress, Little Wolf's younger brother, Smellybreff, shows up and insists on hoarding all the gold in a safe to which only he knows the combination. Then trouble arrives. Trouble in the name of Mister Marvo, who has strangely mesmeric eyes and promises to build the best Adventure Playground ever if they give him three "wheelbarrowsful" of gold! Without doing a stitch of work, Marvo steals the safe and kidnaps Smellybreff. Thus begins an adventure over steep mountains and deep water (all carefully recorded in Little Wolf's letters to his parents and apparently included in his diary) as our brave wolves (and a young crow) pursue the thief with only their own wily wits to rely on. Ending with a haunting twist, a lesson about greed is learned. Full of fanciful wordplay and Ross' (Why?, 1999, etc.) amusing illustrations, this book demands to be read aloud! Peppered with phonetic spelling and lots of obvious mistakes, the format will let children revel in being smarter that Little Wolf. (map) (Fiction. 810)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2000

This quiet, engaging fantasy, illustrated in humorous, expressive color pencil falls flat at its sudden ending. A young boy is missing his belly button and asks all the animals about its whereabouts. Droll language emphasizes the silliness of the situation. Huge jungle animals fill the double-page spreads as the pajama-clad boy begins his journey with the giraffe. "I've lost my belly button. Do you know where it is?" "Search me," says the giraffe. But the giraffe has had his since the day he was born. The Gorilla has one, too, "My mother gave it to me." The boy parts the fur on a lion's belly with a large green comb and politely asks, " ‘I was wondering if you borrowed my bellybutton?' ‘Why would I? I've got a perfectly good one of my own,' said the lion. ‘See?' " Animal after animal reports the existence of its own belly button: the zebra's is striped, the hippopotamus's muddy. Finally the journey concludes with a secretive crocodile sporting "something small and pink and round" and the brave, naked little boy courageously wades into the dark, forbidding swamp to retrieve his body part. Turning to the last page: "he grabbed it!" and the illustration is a close-up of the round bare tummy, belly button firmly in place. The conclusion, though in the tradition of the "gotcha!" story, is too abrupt and somewhat out of context with the charming absurdity and leisurely pace of the rest of the text. It will take a good storyteller to make it work, but it might be worth the effort. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
SLOTH'S SHOES by Jeanne Willis
Released: March 1, 1998

It's Sloth's fifth birthday, and all the animals pitch in to plan the party of the year. But slow-poke Sloth is so fashionably late that the other party animals, who revel throughout the year while waiting for their friend, tire just before Sloth finally arrives: "right place, right day, wrong year." Sloth has missed all the fun, and has also grown out of his birthday present, a pair of carefully stitched shoes. This humorous tale trips off the tongue, its rhyming stanzas bordering more on fun than forced, with poetic sounds and alliteration. The friendly and unusual cast of characters—ranging from potteroos to pangolins—are whimsically depicted in revelry—from a tuxedo-clad snake to a party-pooping fruit bat in pajamas. Readers are bound to enjoy the amusing, offbeat party preparations. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

Banks (Angela and Diabola, p. 716, etc.) may be pushing the envelope again, this time with a protagonist who is young, poisonous, and many-legged. Contrary to what readers might expect, Harry's quite a winning fellow, for a centipede. He's devoted to his mother, Belinda, but he doesn't always heed her warnings about the ``no-top-world'' above their burrow. Humans pose the biggest danger, and the most forbidden place is the ``Up-Pipe,'' which leads directly into a human's shower. Egged on by his reckless friend, George (who calls him a ``sissyfeelers''), Harry does venture into the no-top-world, and the two centis triumphantly drag home a mole cricket for dinner. When foolish George tempts fate by following a human, Harry runs for Belinda, who saves the day by biting the human on the leg. Later, though, when circumstances force both Harry and George into the Up-Pipe, they have to muster their wits to save their own lives and Belinda's, too. With considerable humor and well-placed details, Banks draws readers into a centipede's-eye view of the world. Ross's sprightly black-and-white line drawings convey all the action and an array of centipede emotions. (Fiction. 8+) Read full book review >
Released: April 13, 1994

As Amber tells he, teasing third-grade classmates, she's not a crayon color but a girl — messy but well adjusted, lucky in a teacher who makes a game of studying other countries, trying to forget that best-friend Justin is moving to Alabama as soon as his parents can sell their house. When they do, Justin and Amber — whose own parents' divorce makes this new separation even more painful — fall into a silly quarrel; still, with a little sympathetic encouragement from the adults, they realize that its true cause is their dejection about the move and make up just before Justin leaves. The familiar story is nicely individualized in Amber's buoyant, authentically childlike narration; it's grand to have Danziger add books for younger readers to her many popular titles for the older crowd. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 29, 1993

Pruned to something less than half the original (using only Carroll's language), with chess moves, verse, chaptering, and main events intact: an abridgement that may find some use as an introduction, though any child who enjoys it should be steered to a complete edition. It's not true—despite Ross's otherwise sensible introduction—that all the humor is here (where are the ``six impossible things before breakfast''?); but his forthrightly honest approach (even the title page reads ``Abridged & Illustrated by...'' in caps) merits some indulgence, while even purists will enjoy comparing his witty, freely rendered caricatures with Tenniel's elegantly limned art—which Ross's frequently parodies. (Fiction. 6+) Read full book review >
I WANT TO BE by Tony  Ross
by Tony Ross, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

The little princess decides it's time to grow up: ``Perhaps I should be different'' (holding her teddy over a potty) but how? Mum suggests being nice, ``like your father''; ``Be clean,'' remarks the cook; and so on, with each advice amusingly belied in Ross's cartoony illustrations—``loving'' Mum, cuddling one kitten, is eyed by another, obviously jealous; the cook is picking his nose; the ``brave'' general is terrified of the mice stealing sausages from the untidy kitchen. ``Growing up is SO difficult,'' muses the tot, finally trying out the potty, then deciding the maid has it right—the real question is what she wants to be. ``TALL,'' she announces, only to have her little brother point out that ``you ARE.'' Though the joke about contradictions between the grownups' words and actions is strung out almost too far, Ross's sly caricatures and visual innuendoes add considerable humor and subtlety to his simple-seeming story. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
by Jan Mark, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: April 30, 1993

A witty fable explaining why ``None of you has ever heard a vegetable talk'': The peaceable rabbits (dressed as Puritans) live on one side of a hedge, nibbling the amiably self-renewing grass, while on the other the gallant carrots show off for the benefit of ``fat and vulgar'' lettuces and ``dull and earthy'' turnips. Outraged at the rabbits' failure to notice them, the carrots begin to taunt, persisting with comments about ``silly'' ears, teeth, etc., until the rabbits, roused at last, slaughter them in a vengeful fury. ``Since that time no vegetable has been safe in the presence of a hostile rabbit...and vegetables do not speak at all. They dare not.'' Mark's vigorous, well-honed language reads splendidly aloud; Ross's comical, freely drawn figures—pious bunnies; debonair, devil-may-care carrots—are delightful caricatures, while his comical embellishments (grass roots chatting while an earthworm holds its ears) add substantially to the fun. An offbeat treasure. (Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
translated by Tony Ross, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: Dec. 2, 1992

In the manner of a parent trying to make a familiar old story more immediate, a colloquial update featuring white bears who ``had lots to eat and a color television set'' and a moptop Goldilocks in jeans. Ross's scribbly, deftly constructed square illustrations incorporate various amusing details, including art in many different styles hanging on the bears' walls (Japanese, a Modigliani, and Baby Bear's own pictures of airplanes and superheroes, etc.). The text, extended with irreverent details, is fairly lively; kids may find the illustrations sophisticated, though their attention will be grabbed by Goldilocks jumping on the bed, and certainly by the bears' fierce teeth when they scare Goldilocks away. As a lighthearted modern take, though, James Marshall's delightful version (1988) is to be preferred; still, this is also acceptable, where funds permit. (Folklore/Picture Book. 4-8) Read full book review >
A FAIRY TALE by Tony  Ross
by Tony Ross, illustrated by Tony Ross
Released: April 1, 1992

A sweet, whimsical tale set in one of Britain's uglier mill towns. As a girl, Bessie gets to know neighbor Mrs. Leaf when the old woman invites her to tea and tells her fascinating things about magic (``Have you ever had a magic moment? A summer afternoon when the sky's so warm the world stops...'') and the fairies (``Why, even I might be a fairy''). Bessie soon learns better than to share these revelations with her friends, but she treasures them. As Bessie grows up, marries, is widowed, and is finally old herself, Mrs. Leaf (now called Daisy) grows correspondingly younger until their appearances have reversed. ``Maybe old friends never notice the changes in each other.'' There's an evanescent meaning here, not to be pinned down but still as real as imagination. Ross, whose art often serves boisterous hilarity, extends his range with evocative glimpses of the dreary factory town and the course of the long, poignant friendship. Touching and unusual. (Young reader/Picture book. 4- 10) Read full book review >
RECKLESS RUBY by Hiawyn Oram
Released: April 1, 1992

Ruby glows like a jewel; her mother calls her ``precious'' and hopes ``she'll grow up and marry a prince who'll wrap her in cotton and only bring her out for glittering banquets.'' On the advice of friend Harvey, Ruby spends the book in progressively more reckless acts calculated to win her a new image; she gets injured a lot, but finally gets her wish—plus Harvey's admiration. But Ruby's not interested in his proposal: she's planning to be a firefighter when she grows up. The stereotype- bashing is heavy-handed, but the perky text and wickedly zany illustrations are witty enough to retrieve the story. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1992

Moving right along, the fuzzy, green three-eyed alien who explained human babies so hilariously in Earthlets (1989), as well as our cats and dogs in later efforts, takes up the subject of terrestrial transportation before his class dons their disguises for a field trip to sample the marvels he has described. The professor's comical misconceptions cover several modes of transport, so that only a few pages are available for each; there's less opportunity to expand on the jokes, but the alien nomenclature and literal-minded observations are still amusing. Ross's gleefully satirical illustrations extend the humor in their usual style. Not as amusing as its predecessors, but still good fun. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
EARTH TIGERLETS by Jeanne Willis
Released: May 1, 1991

Though the first (Earthlets, 1989) in this series of comical lectures by an extraterrestrial pedant concerning what he describes as some of Earth's more bizarre species is still the funniest, these misconstructions of feline motives and behavior (``Earth Tigerlets...leave squishy puddings on the stairs so the Earthling has something soft to step on when he has forgotten his socks'') are also pretty funny, especially as rendered in Ross's vigorous, wickedly satirical pictures. (Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >