Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached.

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EXTRA YARN

A little girl in a town of white snow and soot-blackened chimneys opens a small box and discovers a never-ending gift of colorful yarn.

Annabelle knits herself a sweater, and with the leftover yarn, she knits one for her dog, and with the yarn left over from that, she knits one for a neighbor and for her classmates and for her teacher and for her family and for the birdhouse and for the buildings in town. All and everything are warm, cozy and colorful until a clotheshorse of an archduke arrives. Annabelle refuses his monetary offers, whereupon the box is stolen. The greedy archduke gets his just deserts when he opens the box to find it empty. It wends its way back to Annabelle, who ends up happily sitting in a knit-covered tree. Klassen, who worked on the film Coraline, uses inks, gouache and colorized scans of a sweater to create a stylized, linear design of dark geometric shapes against a white background. The stitches of the sweaters add a subdued rainbow. Barnett entertained middle-grade readers with his Brixton Brothers detective series. Here, he maintains a folkloric narrative that results in a traditional story arc complete with repetition, drama and a satisfying conclusion.

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-195338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

Accessible, unfussy and visually charming.

GEORGIA IN HAWAII

WHEN GEORGIA O'KEEFFE PAINTED WHAT SHE PLEASED

An appealing and slightly humorous portrayal of O’Keeffe’s artistic vision and determination, along with a peek at the Hawaii of over half a century ago.

During her several-weeks sojourn in the Hawaii Territory in 1939, Georgia O’Keeffe painted some of her most lovely work. Though it was the Hawaiian (later Dole) Pineapple Company that underwrote her trip in exchange for a painting of a pineapple, O’Keeffe refused to paint the picked fruit the company offered. She did not actually paint a pineapple until she returned to New York, and readers may be able to find her pineapple painting hiding in the pages. But, as Novesky tells here, O’Keeffe discovered flowers, landscapes and Hawaiian feathered fishhooks that captured her artist’s eye. Morales’ luscious full-page illustrations—digitally assembled edge-to-edge acrylic paintings—seem to glow softly in scenes filled with rich colors and that create an intimate relationship between the figure of Georgia and her surroundings. Labeled illustrations of nine different Hawaiian blossoms cover the endpapers. In one striking spread, a canvas close-up shows Georgia’s just-painted waterfall, with a feathered lure and a shell hanging from the corners, while just beyond Georgia, a striking black lava formation reaches into the ocean. Morales captures Georgia’s intelligent and occasionally formidable look; she also captures what O’Keeffe saw, gracefully echoing, not reproducing, O’Keeffe’s work.

Accessible, unfussy and visually charming. (author’s and illustrator’s notes; sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-15-205420-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Bangers! (Fantasy. 8-12)

THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES

From the Vengekeep Prophecies series , Vol. 1

There couldn’t be a more likable family of thieves.

The tightknit, affable and affectionate Grimjinx clan is trouble in Vengekeep. They steal (not from anyone poor or weak) and nimbly avoid prosecution. Ma’s a master forger, Da an expert thief. Little sister Aubrin (terrific nickname: Jinxface) is an ace pickpocket. But 12-year-old Jaxter, the narrator, is clumsy. Lock-picking evades him. “Every year it became clearer: I really wasn’t a very good thief.” Jaxter excels at “beating magic with nonmagical means,” though: His carefully mixed plant/herb pastes dissolve magical protections on locks and loot. When a tapestry meant to predict Vengekeep’s future reveals, astonishingly, that the Grimjinxes are “saviors,” readers will giggle as the con emerges. And then the con becomes deadly. The (faked) tapestry’s fabric is “fateskein,” which means its ominous images will come true. Woe is Ma, who unknowingly used fateskein in the weaving; woe is Vengekeep, now truly destined for lethal plagues. Can Jaxter traverse enough land beyond his familiar town-state to gather the plants and spiderbat milk that might dissolve the fateskein? He’s no crackerjack thief, but he has heart and unflagging humor. This funny and serious series opener features action, twists and pleasingly original vocabulary, such as the swear “zoc” (as in “Zoc that”) and the expression “bangers,” which means, roughly, “awesome.” Immediate danger is averted, intriguing questions hover for next time, and Jaxter’s headed down a fresh path.

Bangers! (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-204928-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

The Steads’ work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in...

BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL

Within a gentle tale of hibernation and renewal, the Steads’ second collaboration (after Caldecott-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee) explores a second, internal theme: the nature of the storytelling narrative itself.

Increasingly sleepy, Bear pads through the fall landscape with “a story to tell” before winter’s sleep. Mouse, Duck, Frog and Mole are well into their own winter preparations and cannot listen. Months later, when the reunited friends gather beneath a full moon, Bear can’t remember his story. Helpfully, his friends suggest a protagonist (“Maybe your story is about a bear”), a plot (“Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter”), and supporting characters (themselves). Thus, Bear begins his story as this one ends: The first line of his story is both the last line of the book and its first. Erin Stead’s pictures quietly appeal: Pencil line and shading define basic features of animals and trees, while washes and smudges of paint suggest seasonal colors, Bear’s rotund mass, and the brushy cobalt expanse of starlit skies. Sharing an affinity with Jerry Pinkney yet evoking the sparer 1960s work of Evaline Ness and Nonny Hogrogian, Stead’s compositions exude an ineffable, less-is-more charm.

The Steads’ work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in for humans convey a nurturing respect for child readers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-745-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

This primer on friendship wrapped in hijinks is paced for maximum pleasure.

EAST DRAGON, WEST DRAGON

In this variant of "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse," two dragons learn to appreciate each other’s talents and milieus.

Sophisticated East Dragon lives in the emperor’s palace with eight siblings. He dabbles in brush painting; a double-page spread of his family reveals skills ranging from sushi preparation and Kabuki performances to landscaping and storytelling. Whimsical caricatures hint at desktop Zen sand gardens and Pueblo storyteller dolls, anachronisms creating an additional level of enjoyment. West Dragon’s habitat is a “boy cave.” Surrounded by a tricycle, soccer ball, television set and books, he endures regular intrusions by the king’s knights: “Nothing made a cave smell nastier than roast knight.” While the dragons snub each other from their respective corners of the world, truth be told, each fears the other. It isn’t until West Dragon’s plot to distract the bothersome knights backfires, and he nearly drowns at the hand of marauding pirates, that their paths cross. Having just admired his counterpart’s great wingspan and ability to fly, East Dragon swims swiftly to the rescue. All ends very well at a party complete with karaoke, pizza and a piñata. Eversole’s spare narrative mixes tongue-in-cheek exaggeration, childhood fears and adventure, inspiring Campbell to contrast the rough and the refined, designing detailed watercolor worlds brimming with humor and beauty.

This primer on friendship wrapped in hijinks is paced for maximum pleasure. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-689-85828-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

Share with readers of all ages as a beautiful message about peaceful protest and purposeful action.

WE MARCH

An African-American family awakens before dawn to prepare for the historic March on Washington in August, 1963.

In this stirring companion to Underground (2011), Evans captures a pivotal event in the struggle for equality and civil rights in America. The family joins neighbors to pray at their church, paint signs and travel by bus to Washington. They walk and sing and grow tired but “are filled with hope” as they stand together at the Washington Monument to listen to Dr. King speak of dreams and freedom. With just one line per page, Evans’ text is spare but forceful. The March has become synonymous with Dr. King’s grandiloquent speech, but Evans reminds readers that ordinary folk were his determined and courageous audience. The full-page paintings depict a rainbow of people holding hands and striding purposefully. One illustration in particular, of the father holding his son high on his shoulders, echoes a painting in Underground, in which a father holds his newborn child high up toward the sky. The strong vertical lines used for the arms of the marchers mirror the intensity of the day.

Share with readers of all ages as a beautiful message about peaceful protest and purposeful action. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-539-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

A thrilling integration of verse and image, motivating all to serious fun.

A STICK IS AN EXCELLENT THING

POEMS CELEBRATING OUTDOOR PLAY

Turning the adage that sticks and stones may break one’s bones on its ear, picture-book titans Singer and Pham team up to entice young readers to go where most Generation Xbox angels fear to tread: outside.

Here Singer presents the full spectrum of outdoor activities in rhymed poems consummately animated by Pham's vibrant drawings. No matter the diversion—playing with the dog, balancing on the curb, running through a sprinkler, making stone soup with friends—Singer’s entreaty to get out and play is unmistakable. While many of the snappy lyrics show off the pleasures of moving—“Everything’s a blast / when you do it really fast!”concludes a piece extolling the virtues of running, puddle-jumping and skateboarding—a real strength of the collection is its engagement of the imagination. For example, in the title piece, what an ordinary stick in the hand can become—a royal scepter, pen, magic wand, drumstick—is limited only by its holder’s creativity. Pham’s evocative artwork heightens the imagination’s importance in play, with her digitally colored pencil-and-ink renderings so finely textured that they radiate a warmth as arresting as Ezra Jack Keats’.

A thrilling integration of verse and image, motivating all to serious fun. (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-12493-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

This sweet seedling will undoubtedly take root and thrive.

AND THEN IT'S SPRING

A boy plants seeds in late winter’s brown, barren earth and vigilantly watches for green sprouts alongside his companions (a dog, turtle, rabbit and bird).

Rambling narration, elasticized with many ands, thats, commas and a boy’s earnest concerns for his seeds, runs on, leaving readers waiting and waiting and waiting—just like the child gardener. The boy’s oversized glasses, his tilted, blank face (we never see his eyes) and tiny chin melt hearts instantly. Stead wisely withholds his features, letting Fogliano’s babbling stream of small worries and staggeringly sharp imaginings flesh him out. Silly bears might tread on the plantings, unaware of signs that read “please do not stomp here— / there are seeds / and they are trying.” Germinating seeds issue “a greenish hum / that you can only hear / if you put your ear to the ground / and close your eyes.” This elaborate inner world and darling voice reverberate in muted woodblock prints and empathetic pencil illustrations as well, its timbre and tone unchanged. Delicate lines run like fine veins, describing animals, trees, plants and fences with intricate and intentional specificity. Sizable, scalloped cloud formations, whose flat panes of white widen double-page horizons, offset both the scrupulous linework and abundant regions of brown and blue. Their simplicity ventilates these pictures, allowing readers to note amusing secondary animal activities in the dirt. Many treasures lie buried within this endearing story, in which humor and anxious anticipation sprout alongside one another.

This sweet seedling will undoubtedly take root and thrive. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-624-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Grown-ups beware. Youngsters might have their own questions and answers after this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

QUESTION BOY MEETS LITTLE MISS KNOW-IT-ALL

An irresistible force meets an immovable object with hilarious results.

The superheroes that populate this town are no match for Question Boy. With his insatiable need to know, he can make Garbage Man, Oil Man and Wonder Waitress run for cover to escape his incessant queries. Then he meets Little Miss Know-It-All, who answers all his questions and then some, peppering him with one factoid after another until he is supine on the grass, seemingly defeated. Dizzy with victory, she starts to leave in triumph, when Question Boy raises the most unanswerable question of all, the all-purpose “Why,” screaming it over and over until she is driven to give the only possible response. Used most often by exasperated adults, her answer settles the matter convincingly, at least for the present. Thus the contest is done, and to the cheers of the onlookers, the two rivals walk off together as friends. These precocious characters are instantly recognizable, and Catalanotto brings them to life with tenderness and humor in rapid-paced action and dialogue. The text, boldfaced and widely spaced, is set in the delightfully and appropriately named “CC Yada Yada Yada.” Extra-bright and colorful watercolor paintings of various sizes, shapes and perspective perfectly complement and enhance the tale.

Grown-ups beware. Youngsters might have their own questions and answers after this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0670-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

TRAINS GO

There's more than just “choo-choo” along this track.

Eight different trains capture attention with their dramatic sounds. The engines (from the freight to the diesel) exude an exuberant variety of “bings,” “wo woos” and “zoooshes” as their speed intensifies. Onomatopoeia distinguishes one example from the next; the old steam train “toots” along while the big steam train “chuggas” with a vengeance. For all the apparently straightforward approach, Light indulges in some sly whimsy, too. Echoing the Billy Goats Gruff and repeating for emphasis, the “mountain train goes, / TRIP TRAP FUFF PUFF / TRIP TRAP FUFF PUFF / TRIP TRAP FUFF PUFF/ TRIP TRAP FUFF PUFF!” The elongated pages allow each train to stretch out magisterially. People take a back seat to the machines; the occasional conductor remains a distant and darkened figure. Variations in font accent each pointed syllable. Frantic lines push the cars to a formidable speed, and loose watercolor splashes explode with visual intensity. Sheer, fabulous power. (Board book. 1-3)  

 

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7942-2

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

A dazzlingly poetic photo album of the insect world for tots on up. (Picture book. 2 & up)

STEP GENTLY OUT

Breathtaking photos and an exquisite poem capture a bug’s-eye view of nature.

One can only hope the present collaboration will be the first of many between nature photographer Lieder and Frost (Hidden, 2011, etc.), one of the most gifted, versatile children’s poets writing today, for the synthesis of word and image in this short picture book is so finely wed that the final page turn leaves one begging for more. While Frost’s lightly rhymed declarative verse encourages children to experience the natural world with care and openness to the tiny wonders of insect life around them, Lieder’s richly colored intimate close ups offer every reason why. “Step gently out,” Frost advises, pointing out how “the creatures shine with stardust, / they’re splashed with morning dew. / In song and dance and stillness, they share the world with you.” Golden-hued endpapers catch a honeybee and firefly mid-flight; the volume also spotlights the less-frequently spied praying mantis, katydid and damselfly, alongside more common insects. For precise readers wishing to know, for example, that the fuzzy, stoplight-colored creature twisting around a blade of grass happens to be a tussock moth caterpillar, the volume’s endnotes include brief descriptions of the featured species.

A dazzlingly poetic photo album of the insect world for tots on up. (Picture book. 2 & up)

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5601-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Just label it F for funny.

Z IS FOR MOOSE

A wry twist on an alphabet story makes for laugh-out-loud fun.

Poor Moose. He tries to get into the alphabetic act on every letter page from D to L, but Zebra, who’s directing the assemblage, insists it’s not his turn yet and that he must move off the page. When it IS time for M, Zebra decides to go with Mouse, and Moose flips his antlers—well, his lid. Zebra tries to console the despondent moose, telling him he can still be in the book even though the only letter left is Z. Solution? Z becomes “Zebra’s friend, Moose.” How perfect that Z-elinsky is the illustrator. His often-elegant style turns comedic here, with brightly colored borders framing each letter in a simple scene. The borders become a design device for Moose, as he pokes his head over the edges or stomps the scene within angrily. In others, Moose tries to camouflage himself, as when he squeezes behind an Ice-cream cone or hitchhikes a ride in the Kangaroo’s pouch. Dialogue balloons express Moose’s eagerness, asking, “Now?” and declaring (mistakenly), “Here it comes!” Zebra, wearing a referee’s black-and-white striped shirt and carrying a clipboard, answers, “NO, not yet!” Kids who are learning their ABCs or have just learned them will find this hysterical, and it has great potential for storytimes.

Just label it F for funny. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-079984-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

In all, lovely, inventive, engrossing and interactive.

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GREEN

In lush paintings outfitted with cleverly positioned die cuts, Seeger’s latest explores the color green.

In four simple quatrains, two-word lines each suggest a kind of green, introducing a scene that might show natural, domestic or built elements: “forest green / sea green / lime green / pea green.” Two die-cut leaves on a tree in the forest’s foreground become, with a page turn, two fish swimming in a sea turtle’s wake. At “jungle green,” a tiger crouches, peering from thick undergrowth. The page turn yields “khaki green” and a lizard whose pale, spotted body is camouflaged against similarly speckled and splotched earth. The rectangular die cut shared by the tiger and lizard spreads reveals that the words “jungle” and “khaki” are each embedded in the painted scenes: The die cut facilitates the discovery. “[G]low green” shows twilit children chasing tiny circles—luminescent fireflies—near a deep-red barn; with a page turn, the circles are now apples in a tree. The last quatrain—“all green / never green / no green / forever green” spans spreads that conclude in the orchard, near the red barn, with tiny die-cut leaves: on a new plant; on a mature tree.  Seeger’s paintings vary in perspective and even in perspicacity: For example, flowers and trees are stylistically more naif than animals.

In all, lovely, inventive, engrossing and interactive. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-397-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

One romping celebration of boyhood to read again and again.

WHAT LITTLE BOYS ARE MADE OF

“What are little boys made of?” In Neubecker’s hands, the answer is a whole lot of fun!

From “Moons and stars and rockets to Mars” to “Wings and tails and dragons with scales,” this rhyme’s half-pint hero imagines his way through most boys’ obsessions. Astronaut, sports star, knight, dinosaur-tamer—they’re all there, presented in action-packed, energetic illustrations. Done in pen or pencil, then digitally colored, the artwork has a raw freshness as spontaneous as the lad’s revelry. Neubecker skillfully uses the text and compositions to build upon each other. Each verse begins with the boy and his toys in a plain and simple environment. But in resolving the verse (“That’s what little boys are made of”), gorgeous, visually complex, full spreads are offered, giving readers insight into the boy’s rollicking fantasies. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition—the density of the imagined merriment on one spread after such a sparse one—reinforcing the innocence of the child’s real-life play. The illustrator also pays homage to a certain visual aesthetic for each of the youth’s adventures. As a pirate, readers may recall old naval illustrations; as a dragon-slayer, illuminated manuscripts; and as a jungle explorer, the wild things of Maurice Sendak. To complete the picture, the author also shows the quiet and loving side of boys, as they are also made of “A kiss and a hug, a snuggle and LOVE.”

One romping celebration of boyhood to read again and again. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-202355-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Otherwise, distinguished both as natural history and work of art.

THE BEETLE BOOK

Jenkins’ splendid array of beetles will surely produce at least one budding coleopterist.

The colors and patterns of this ubiquitous insect (one out of four creatures on the planet is a beetle, Jenkins tells readers) are fascinating, as are the details about the various adaptations that beetles have made over millennia in response to their environment, diet, and predators. “Perhaps the innovation that has been most helpful to the beetle is its pair of rigid outer wings.” Beautiful book design and a small but clear freehand-style type contribute to readers’ appreciation of the elegant structure and variety of these creatures. Deep, bright hues in the torn-and–cut-paper–collage illustrations set each beetle with its own singular pattern and colors against generous white space. Actual-size silhouettes allow the detailed, larger illustrations to be matched with a realistic appraisal of each beetle’s dimensions. A list of the several dozen featured beetles along with their Latin names and their principal geographic locations appears on a two-page opening at the back. Only a couple of quibbles: The author’s claim that without the dung beetle “the world’s grasslands would soon be buried in animal droppings” begs for a little further explanation; and the absence of a bibliography seems like an oversight.

Otherwise, distinguished both as natural history and work of art. (Nonfiction. 7-12) 

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-68084-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking.

HEROES OF THE SURF

Based on a true story of shipwreck and rescue, Carbone’s tale is leavened with narration by Anthony, a venturesome lad whose penchant for playing pirates helps him through the harrowing event.

It’s 1882, and the steamship Pliny, bound for New York City from Brazil, founders in a storm off New Jersey. Anthony and his friend Pedro run onto the deck to gauge whether New York is near. Instead, they face life-threatening conditions, as towering waves splinter lifeboats and the engines die. In the gray dawn, the boys see land, men and—a cannon. Before there’s much time to ponder pirates, a rescue line is launched from shore to ship, followed by the breeches buoy: “It comes swinging toward us hanging from the rope: a life preserver with a pair of short pants attached.” One by one, passengers are hauled along the line to safety ashore at Deal Beach. Carbone’s text conveys a compelling “you are there” tone as Anthony prepares to ride the breeches buoy: “I swing out into open space. Below me, waves crash and twist like angry snakes. Will the ropes hold?” Carpenter’s pictures beautifully capture both historical detail and the event’s inherent drama. A seagoing palette of blue, gray, brown and ochre, crosshatched in black, thoroughly suits the period.

Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-06312-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

From the beaver’s coat to the tiger lily’s petals to the snakeskin, this fish tale is a keeper.

FISH HAD A WISH

From the I Like to Read series

Take a conventional story, add a new art technique—and voilà, a striking picture book is born.

Fish has a wish to be some creature other than what he is: a bird, so he can fly high in the sky; a turtle, so he can nap on a sunny rock; a skunk, so he can make a big stink; or a bobcat, a bee, a beaver, a butterfly or a snake. But when a mayfly lands on the water, Fish eats it in one bite and declares: “That was so good!…I wish to stay a fish.” Part of the publisher’s I Like to Read series, the book's eye-catching artwork will fascinate young readers (and adults). The double-page spreads have wood-grain backgrounds that dramatically grab attention and appropriately evoke Fish’s woodland pond environment. Some of the "digi-wood" illustrations are more invigorating than others, but all of them are captivating. Striations and hashes of color create patterns and textures. This technique is new for Garland, and he has cast his net with vigor and aplomb.

From the beaver’s coat to the tiger lily’s petals to the snakeskin, this fish tale is a keeper. (Picture book/early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2394-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Readers will want to visit more than once to capture both the science and the abundant sense of celebration here.

OCEAN SUNLIGHT

HOW TINY PLANTS FEED THE SEAS

From the Sunlight series

An awe-inspiring lesson in photosynthesis goes under the sea.

As in this pair’s previous Living Sunlight (2009), the sun addresses readers to explain the role of solar energy in supporting the chain of life—this time in the ocean. A summary of the process of photosynthesis occupies the first few spreads. Warm yellow sunlight suffuses these pages, and small insets accompany the textual explanation of how plants make sugar from water and carbon dioxide. Then the focus moves to the sea, first near the surface, where phytoplankton grow and multiply, and then to the depths, where nutrient-rich marine “snow” sifts down to feed creatures who live away from sunlight. The transformation of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into phytoplankton (“the great invisible pasture of the sea”), on which feed zooplankton and progressively larger animals, is set against background paintings of rich marine blues and greens. The churning and recycling of these nutrients is shown again to be a gift of the sun: “My sunlight powers winds that build great storms and mix the water layers of the seas.” Bang’s art is richly kinetic, with its whorls and stipples indicating plant and animal life in profusion, from the swirling microscopic creatures to graceful large fish and whales.

Readers will want to visit more than once to capture both the science and the abundant sense of celebration here. (Informational picture book. 5-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-27322-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

Ready or not! Here comes a book worth finding.

HIDE & SEEK

Expert hide-and-seekers will hear the hushed scuttles and feel the quickened pulses as a group of animals plays a rain forest game of hide-and-seek.

Elephant counts while his animal friends scurry. Butterflies flutter around the crouching little elephant, a new one joining in with each page turn, adding up to a swarm that equals each giddy announcement: 1, 2, 3! Meanwhile, flamingo, chameleon, giraffe, rhino, monkey, tortoise, the starlings and bush babies hasten to get hidden. Momentum mounts as readers alternate between an animal wondering, for example, “Can I hide behind this rock?” (on left-hand pages) and the elephant’s escalating counting (on the right). Na also directs readers’ eyes up into the canopy and down into the underbrush, where creatures look for cover, getting them to crane their heads and look at the forest from every angle. Text size swells and reduces, indicating emphasis, and keeps the antsy energy going. Digital layering produces a fantastic fusion of painterly textures, soft patterns and fine outlines, yielding ethereal illustrations with dappled colors that shine like light through a leaf. So many undulating components could easily turn into roiling confusion on the page, but here each element coheres beautifully, rendering a sweetly swirling, tie-dyed rain forest awash in reds, yellows, greens and blues.

Ready or not! Here comes a book worth finding. (Picture book. 2-5)  

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-87078-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Beautifully benign illustrations conjure powerful familial feelings

CHLOE

Who wouldn’t want to put on a monster show in a big, cardboard box or pop bubble wrap at rapid-fire speed?

After a new television ruins “family fun time,” Chloe, the middle bunny in a brood of 21, tries to pull her brothers and sisters from its glowing grip. Colored-ink drawings hover on lush, creamy paper, offering delightfully dreamy details: the bunnies’ fur, pert mouths and dewy eyes, their clothes’ stripes and patterns, their bodies clustered together around the house. On one dizzying double-page spread, Chloe levitates at the epicenter of the domestic swirl, her family circling swiftly around her. McCarty says simply and directly to middle children everywhere, “Chloe was in the middle.” The narrative maintains perfect pacing throughout, speeding up with long sentences and slowing down with abbreviated lines that allow readers to linger on the soft, mesmerizing artwork (so many bunnies!). A bustling dinner scene shows the family nibbling on every kind of spring veggie; readers’ eyes roam from one end of the table to the other and back again, studying each whiskered face and plate. Fashion (eyeglasses, dresses, shirts) and minute tweaks in expression individualize each rabbit, while Chloe always manages to shine. McCarty captures the tensile ties strung among siblings, parents, genders and ages in every household.

Beautifully benign illustrations conjure powerful familial feelings . (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-114291-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Share this admirable appreciation with a wide audience.  (Picture book/poetry. 4-10)

WATER SINGS BLUE

OCEAN POEMS

Twenty-three poems and evocative watercolor paintings pay tribute to the wonders of the ocean world.

The versatile Coombs shows she’s as adept at poetry as she is at concocting or adapting fairy tales (Hans My Hedgehog, 2012, etc.). She invites young readers into her celebration with an opening “Song of the Boat” and ends with the message of the “Tideline.” “ ‘Don’t forget me— / I was here, / wasss h e r e / wasssss h e r e …’ ” Varied rhyme and rhythmic patterns and surprising connections characterize these relatively short poems, which read aloud well and stick in the memory. There’s humor, interesting language and intriguing imagery, as when the Gulper Eel’s “astronomical maw” is compared to a black hole. Thoughtful organization and placement of text on the page and So’s wavery, watery illustrations extend the poems’ meaning. A series of couplets describing “What the Waves Say” is illustrated with panels of varying water-surface patterns. Three different jellyfish poems share a double-page spread; another spread emphasizes the size of a blue whale with its vertical orientation and a shipwreck lying at the bottom. Sand-colored endpapers show objects washed up on shore: a shell, a feather, a crab’s claw and what might just be the remains of a footprint.

Share this admirable appreciation with a wide audience.  (Picture book/poetry. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7284-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

Soothing and satisfying; perfect for reading on the porch on a summer evening, preferably next to a dog.

HOMER

Stories of patiently waiting dogs have been around for just about forever, or at least since Homer wrote about faithful Argos recognizing Odysseus after a 20-year absence. In Cooper’s touching story, the patient pup is an aging yellow Lab named Homer, whose love for his family is as deep and wide as the ocean outside their cottage.

At daybreak Homer is already lying on the front porch, looking out over a field and beach, as well as the sea beyond. As the family members (including three more dogs) pass by Homer on their way out, they all invite him to come along to play in the water, dig in the sand or bike to the store. Homer replies to each in turn that he is happy to stay right there on the porch, watching and waiting. His family returns, and the pleasant day winds down, with Homer finally curling up in a cozy armchair for the night, content because “I have everything I want.” Soft-focus watercolor illustrations effectively convey the seaside atmosphere with a combination of formats, including some pages with consecutive panels and wordless double-page spreads showing a wide view of the cottage and beach and the inside of the home with the family getting ready for bed.

Soothing and satisfying; perfect for reading on the porch on a summer evening, preferably next to a dog. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-201248-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Eye-opening inspiration in this unassuming import from Colombia.

JIMMY THE GREATEST!

In a thought-provoking twist on the usual immigrant story, a village lad elects to stay put.

Though Jimmy’s town is just a scattering of shacks on a broad beach, there is a tiny gym, owned by Don Apolinar. He gives Jimmy a box full of books and clippings about Muhammad Ali that sparks a yen in the boy to become a boxer. Yockteng depicts the tall, dark-skinned lad running across a sun-drenched landscape at the head of a gaggle of laughing children. He shadowboxes and demonstrates his strength by letting a goat butt him in the chest, carrying huge loads of fish and other feats. But when Don Apolinar departs for the big city, where there are "real jobs," Jimmy decides to stay, taking over the gym and adding a library to it. “Maybe one day he’ll get a match,” the narrative concludes, but then it gives Jimmy the last words: “Listen to me. / This is my town. / … / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” Idealized as it may be, the idyllic setting and smiling, bright-eyed faces on view in the illustrations make his choice easy to understand.

Eye-opening inspiration in this unassuming import from Colombia. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55498-178-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

A deeply satisfying story that speaks to the universal desires to be nurtured and to find a home.

A HOME FOR BIRD

Vernon is both a toad and a forager for found objects. Ambling along with his latest haul, he chances upon a creature he seeks to know and then to help. 

Observant children will have noticed (next to the copyright information) the overloaded “Careful Moving Co.” pickup truck barreling down the road, where a bump releases a cuckoo from its clock spring. On re-readings, additional story elements will be discovered in the truck. Vernon observes that “Bird is shy…but also a very good listener,” when he introduces Bird to his friends. He and his pals conclude that Bird is lost and unhappy, so the thoughtful, resourceful amphibian readies a teacup boat for the journey to help this quiet stranger return home. They check out a birdcage, birdhouse, mailbox, nest and telephone wires—to no avail, but “Vernon was a determined friend.” After the weary pair seeks refuge inside a familiar farmhouse clock, Vernon wakes to a cheery “Cuckoo!” and all is well. Stead’s loose gouache strokes and crayon scribbles create a disheveled world just right for suggesting a junk-collector’s paradise. Wide lines mix with thin curves, and wet and dry strokes commingle for a dappled, breezy setting; blue and green canopies often frame the page borders. Stead’s sensitive telling and white background create space for contemplation.

A deeply satisfying story that speaks to the universal desires to be nurtured and to find a home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-711-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

A quietly sublime depiction of a child at play by the sea.

BEACH FEET

From the Being in the World series , Vol. 2

In this newest installment in the Being in the World series, Japanese collaborators Konagaya and Saito offer a lovely account of a day in the life of a child at the beach.

Cover art depicts pudgy toes scrunching down into the sand, and the book opens to a first-person, stream-of-consciousness text detailing the child’s seaside experience. It’s never clear whether this child is a boy or a girl, but this doesn’t matter, as from page to page those feet from the cover art feel the heat of sun-baked sand, the coolness of the ocean waters and the hard pressure of a seashell underfoot. Succinct, moment-by-moment narration delivers the child’s experiences in brief snippets of text that exult in the sensuous experiences of the surroundings. Throughout, Saito’s pastel illustrations make the most of cool and warm shades to convey the juxtaposition of water and sand and sun, while spontaneous linework depicts the exuberance of the child’s movements and the ebb and flow of the sea. Together, words and pictures combine to create a slice-of-life picture book that is more about setting than character and less a story than it is a mood piece.

A quietly sublime depiction of a child at play by the sea. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59270-121-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

A luminous celebration of family, food and home.

DAY BY DAY

Day by day, brick by brick, a community is built in this winning tribute to fellowship and family.

Across a golden prairie, a family of pigs heads west. Their small actions grow in significance as bricks become a house, beloved paraphernalia create a home, neighbors are welcomed and friendships begin. With each handsome spread, the author rephrases the proverb she was inspired by: “little by little, the bird builds its nest.” Words flow on a curvature that matches the lyrical nature of both text and artwork. Sophisticated, digital illustrations done in a pastel color palette dazzle the senses, allowing readers to feel the vastness of sky, the heat of summer; to smell the scent of flowers and fields; and to hear the slow dance-floor melody as they safely drift to sleep. Gal skillfully employs the computer to create a handmade, collage aesthetic. Through her application of textures, she creates a world that’s rich in pattern, color and, most of all, love. As pigs gather around a table, under a festive tree at twilight to enjoy the bounty they have grown, they give thanks.

A luminous celebration of family, food and home. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86959-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

Yum has perfectly captured the emotional ups and downs of both parent and child in a visually expressive work that will...

MOM, IT'S MY FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN!

Yum, known for using text and artwork to explore emotions (There Are No Scary Wolves, 2010, etc.), looks at the first day of school from two points of view—that of a little boy who is more than ready and a nervous mother not quite prepared to let him go.  

The author’s watercolors are the true standout here, the colors and relative sizes of the characters masterfully conveying their emotions—many spreads could stand on their own without the text at all. Readers first see the pair when the 5-year-old shakes his mother awake on the first day of school; he is huge and pink-faced, towering over his tiny mother, who is blue-faced and cowering in the bed. As the text enumerates her worries (that he won’t have time to eat, she forgot some vital supply, he’ll be late, he’ll get lost, he won’t have any friends), the exuberant boy’s facial expressions, body language and oral responses counter her fears…until they reach his classroom door, and their sizes and colors flip. He quickly gets over it and has a great day at school, greeting his blue-toned mother exuberantly at dismissal, and the two, regular sizes and colors again now that they have survived the day, reunite and share the day’s events.

Yum has perfectly captured the emotional ups and downs of both parent and child in a visually expressive work that will shore up adults as they send their children off on that momentous day. (Picture book. 4-7, adult)

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-35004-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

Oh, yes! This is a terrific new picture book.

OH, NO!

With text that begs to be read aloud and sumptuous illustrations made by a master printmaker, this picture book reads like an instant classic.

Jacket art populated by several animals that appear in the story establishes the Asian jungle setting: A toothsome tiger lurks, while a loris, mouse and frog cower on front and back boards. The palette is rich with shades of brown, green, orange and bluish-gray, and the cover’s scene carries over on to endpapers that show Tiger stalking Frog. The chase continues across frontmatter pages until the first spread reads: “Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!” Dramatic visual perspective captures Frog’s fall, and the following spread shows Tiger settling in for his next move on his prey. As Tiger waits, a speech balloon heralds the titular cry, “Oh, no!” Clearly, Frog is in trouble, and on ensuing pages, several animals make rescue attempts, only to fall into the hole as well. Finally, a trumpeting, stomping elephant arrives and uses its trunk to save almost all of the trapped animals: Tiger (who had tried to get to the animals with dinner rather than rescue on his mind), falls into the hole on a prior spread, and after the elephant’s valiant rescue, they all cry “Oh, no!” when he cries for help.

Oh, yes! This is a terrific new picture book. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-84271-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills.

MOUSTERPIECE

Who needs a cookie? Give a mouse a paintbrush!

Janson lives in a museum, in a cozy corner with a pillow and a rose-speckled blanket. One day, she stumbles upon something new, “and her little world opened.” Striding across a gray page, with a soft white glow around her figure to show energy, Janson emerges into a white background and finds—art! Immediately entranced, this self-possessed, humble rodent sets to work copying the masters. A grid of pop-art self-portraits (Janson’s face, with her tenderly expressive eyebrow angle) pays homage to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn series; Janson reclining in a jungle recalls Rousseau; Janson’s snout, elongated and triangulated into cubism, echoes Picasso. Each clean, white page centers Janson at work; an occasional wall angle, easel or dropcloth nimbly enhances the minimal composition. Janson’s gray body and striped skirt are warm hues of low saturation, sending focus to the colors within her artwork: Campbell’s red soup can with mouse face, à la Warhol; blues and yellows for van Gogh’s Starry Night; primaries for a geometric Mondrian mouse and a Munch mouse Scream. When museum renovation bars Janson from the art wing, she weeps, truly bereft, then forges ahead, painting from memory and defining her own style. Discovery and an exhibit follow. Janson’s climactic mousterpiece features canvas texture showing through the paint, honoring her beloved medium.

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills. (notes on 22 artists referenced) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-549-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Smart and accessible, charming and witty, this is one for educators and adventurers alike.

CAT TALE

Hall cleverly plays with homophones in this diverting word adventure.

Three curious cats, propelled by their imaginations, bring books to life as they traverse spacious, white spreads. Together they “flee a steer,” “steer a plane,” “plane a board” and “board a train.” Each sentence or scenario offers hints of what’s to come. Discerning compositions and a rhyming text further drive the momentum until, alas! The words’ many meanings confound these friendly felines. Humorous permutations ensue as the kitties try to untangle their tales. After they successfully "shoo a truly naughty gnu," (it's munching shoes—truly naughty indeed!), things go sadly awry. "They use their paws to rock a squashberry! Rock a squashberry?" Once back on track, they befriend a bear, sail a whale and ultimately find comfort and contentment in words. Digitally collaged illustrations with appealing characters pop from the page. The artwork, simple in its appearance yet interwoven with the text with utmost sophistication, playfully offers the easiest and funniest lesson on homophones possible, inviting repeat readings and likely inspiring continuing silliness.

Smart and accessible, charming and witty, this is one for educators and adventurers alike. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-191516-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A warm, gentle portrait of an immigrant’s isolation and the ways that creativity and a loving family can offer both a safe...

THE QUIET PLACE

As in Stewart and Small’s previous The Gardener (1997) and The Journey (2001), letters to a loved one become the vehicle for a girl to explore what she sees, feels and comes to understand upon leaving home for the first time.

In this title, a family of four is moving from Mexico to America in 1957. Their poignant, pre-dawn departure starts on the endpapers. Small’s imaginative use of color and masterful variation of line combine to focus attention on Isabel’s expressive face while developing other characters and creating a convincing period with Formica countertops and big-finned cars. Silent spreads allow readers time to ponder her predicament and imagine their own reactions. As the epistles to Auntie Lupita chronicle Isabel’s encounter with snow, feelings about her new teacher and time spent at the children’s parties her mother caters, they also indirectly portray a family sensitive to a child’s well-being. When Isabel requests the big boxes left over from the parties, her family supports her special sanctuary as needed; decorated with paint, origami and cardboard rainspouts reminiscent of the clay gutters back home, her quiet place turns into a panorama of festivities on her birthday, when a double gatefold reveals many new friends.

A warm, gentle portrait of an immigrant’s isolation and the ways that creativity and a loving family can offer both a safe haven and a bridge. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-32565-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Another superb contribution to scientific literature by Chin.

ISLAND

A beautifully made picture book presents the story of the Galápagos Islands for young readers.

It’s not easy to present the story of island formation, species colonization and evolution in a picture book, but Chin succeeds admirably, challenging intelligent young readers with sophisticated concepts but presenting them in a way that will allow readers not only to understand them, but to marvel at them, as well. As in Chin’s previous volumes, Redwoods (2009) and Coral Reefs (2011), gorgeous watercolor illustrations lure readers into the scientific story. Chin is careful to point out in his author’s note the necessity of speculation and educated guesses, given how far in the past the story takes place. But the work is top-notch narrative nonfiction, based on the best current scientific research.  An eye-catching variety of horizontal panels, thumbnails and full-bleed pages makes science visual. Especially effective is the discussion of how species change over time: The finches’ beaks become larger, tortoises’ shells change shape, and cormorants’ wings shrink. In the epilogue, after millions of years of evolution, a ship appears, and a man comes ashore, pen and notebook in hand. It’s Charles Darwin, as explained in the backmatter, where his theory of evolution by natural selection is explained and further information on the Galápagos Islands and their indigenous species is presented.

Another superb contribution to scientific literature by Chin.   (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-716-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.

MONSIEUR MARCEAU

ACTOR WITHOUT WORDS

Audiences thrilled to his mesmerizing performances, in which he spoke through his expressive body without uttering a single word.

Marceau was the world’s most popular and beloved mime. Born in France, he grew up watching and imitating Charlie Chaplin, star of silent films. World War II intruded and turned the Jewish teen into a war hero. At war’s end, he created Bip, his alter ego, who with makeup and costume “walks against the wind, but there is no wind.” Schubert’s spare text is both poetic and dramatic. DuBois’s oil paintings are brilliantly executed and saturated, with textured nuances. Images of Marceau fly across the page, delighting the eye, while close-ups highlight his extraordinary facial expressions. Ordinary paper morphs into stage settings as Marceau dances against white or black backgrounds. One double-page spread depicts a costumed fish with sinuously expressive hands and feet. Another presents seven views of Marceau in movement, updating a series of views of Marceau as a child. The pages set during World War II, in contrast, are a somber palette. Don’t turn the pages too quickly; rather stop and feel the joie de vivre with which the master filled people of all ages all over the world.

An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.   (afterword, source notes, further reading) (Picture book biography. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-529-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

And will a young scholar read it again and look for more? You bet—it’s great fuel for the imagination.

CASTLE

HOW IT WORKS

Hooray for the launch of a new nonfiction series for newly fledged readers!

Macaulay’s compact, clear and engagingly illustrated explanation of how a castle is built to thwart potential intruders (you, the reader, in this case) is the right length and depth for readers who have progressed beyond beginner books. His trademark pen-and-ink lines reveal the structural purpose of each part of the medieval stone fortress, while color wash adds appeal. Clearly among the first of a series, this title is labeled "Level 4," and the sentences are just complex enough: “Beneath the ground floor is the dark, damp dungeon.” The narrative is well supported by the illustration—and vice versa: An intriguing drawing has the essential details mentioned in the accompanying passage. Readers will encounter new challenges with text set against dark backgrounds on a few pages, but the font size and line spacing are just right. The length of the book—32 pages, including glossary—seems thoughtfully calculated to bestow a sense of accomplishment. The basics get covered here in fascinating detail: the guard who stops to use the toilet; a cross section of a battering ram. Added riches: a glossary, an index and a list of resources for further study, in small type but nicely focused.

And will a young scholar read it again and look for more? You bet—it’s great fuel for the imagination. (Nonfiction early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-744-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Macaulay Studio/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A doll of a beginning reader.

PENNY AND HER DOLL

From the Penny series

Following Penny and Her Song (2012), Henkes delivers an even stronger slice of anthropomorphic mouse life for beginning readers.

The story opens with Penny chatting amicably with her mother in the garden. Penny smells the roses while Mama weeds, and then the mailman delivers a package from Gram. Inside is a doll for Penny, with a note reading, “I saw this doll when I was shopping. I thought you would love her. I hope you will.” And, she does. The fly in the ointment is Penny's struggle to name the doll. Her parents make suggestions, but none seem right, and they reassure her, “Try not to think too hard…Then maybe a name will come to you.” Sure enough, after taking her doll on a tour of the house and then into the garden, the perfect name arises: “[T]his is Rose!” she announces. Henkes always excels at choosing just-right names for his characters (see Chester, Wilson, Lilly, Sheila Rae and, of course, Chrysanthemum and her “absolutely perfect” moniker), so this story seems particularly at home in his oeuvre. The familiarity of Henkes’ mouse world, as well as expertly paced and controlled storytelling for new readers, mark this as a new classic, earning Penny a firm place alongside the not-so-creatively-named Frog, Toad, Little Bear and that celebrated Cat in the Hat.

A doll of a beginning reader. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208199-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A remarkable achievement.

YOU ARE STARDUST

We are made of earth and water and air and stardust, and we are more related to animals and plants than we ever imagined.

Everything about us is found in the natural world. Our atoms are from ancient stardust, and the water and salt that flow within us are part of the unchanging cycle that goes back to the beginning of time. We breathe pollen that, when released, may actually create a plant. We grow at night and seasonally shed and grow hair, in similar fashion to animals. We are also a living planet for millions of microorganisms. Kelsey doesn’t lecture or overcomplicate the information. She speaks directly to readers in a way that opens minds to big ideas and paves the way for thoughtful questions of their own. The litany of facts comes alive in vivid, descriptive language, lending a philosophical, elegant and mystical aura to current scientific findings. Kim’s incredibly unusual illustrations are sublime. Employing varied painting techniques, vivid colors, multidimensional cutouts, unexpected materials and unusual textures, she creates a view of nature that is at once real and otherworldly. This is a work that demands to be read and reread, studied and examined, and thoroughly digested. It is perfect for sparking adult and child conversations about our place in the universe.

A remarkable achievement. (Picture book. 5-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-926973-35-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A visual stunner.

THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE

In this splendid retelling of Aesop’s familiar fable, a country mouse leaves his bucolic existence to sample the glitz and glam of the city, only to discover there’s absolutely no place like home.

Country mouse “live[s] a quiet life among the seasons.” He is perfectly content until his “fine, sleek” town cousin comes to visit, criticizes the mud and dangerous wildlife (a sleeping fawn, in the illustration), and boasts about the city’s “rich, exotic foods.” Urging his cousin to see the wonders of the city for himself, town mouse departs, leaving country mouse discontent and with “a longing for new sights and sounds.” Country mouse hitches a ride to the city, where he discovers electric lights and towers of glass and stone. His cousin’s apartment is indeed luxurious and the food delicious, but country mouse soon yearns for the simple pleasures of home. The elegant, simple text contrasts the natural beauty of the countryside with the artificiality of the city. Sumptuous watercolor illustrations enhance the rural/urban juxtaposition with luminous close-ups of country mouse immersed in the seasonal flora and fauna of the English countryside and overwhelmed by the “noise and bustle and hum” of a 1930s-era city at Christmas. The richly detailed illustrations invite and reward close inspection.

A visual stunner. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6098-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

An excellent addition to both the folk tale genre and the early-reader shelf.

NEVER TRUST A TIGER

From the Animal Stories series , Vol. 2

Does one good turn deserve another?

A merchant stops to free a tiger stuck in a hole by lowering a tree trunk to it, and what does he get for his trouble? A growl and a show of sharp teeth from the hungry tiger, who is planning to make a meal of him!  Taken aback, the merchant protests that this is not fair. At first, the tiger says, “I don’t want to be fair. I only want to be full!” But he finally agrees to a test, if only to quiet the merchant down so he can be eaten up. Colorful, energetic acrylics work together with the carefully selected vocabulary, lucid text and generous repetition to make this Korean folk tale a strong choice for early readers. In the end, the deciding vote is left to a hare, who seems confused by the quandary and asks that the two show him what happened, so the tiger gets back in the hole. The hare advises the merchant to leave immediately, and as to whether a good deed should follow a good deed, the hare says, “That all depends on who you help!” Young readers will be drawn in by the measured suspense and leave with a chuckle.

An excellent addition to both the folk tale genre and the early-reader shelf. (Folk tale/early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84686-776-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are in its visual transformations and emotional intensity, but with a more present and...

APPLESAUCE

“My daddy has warm hands. His fingers taste like applesauce. I wish he had a thousand hands.”

Spare of words but rich in feeling, this love note tracks some ups and downs but circles back to an attachment so warm and close that only the stoniest of hearts will remain unaffected. Tagging along as his father washes up in the morning, sacks out in front of the television after some vigorous outdoor play and then goes on into the kitchen to peel apples, the young narrator makes contented comments about dad’s hands, muscles and stomach (“soft as a pillow”). When an unspecified offense brings on “thunder daddy,” though, the miffed lad heads for “the forest of Other-and-Better”—a staircase, in the pictures, that transforms into a dense, dark forest of trees with shouting mouths—in search of a nicer parent. The scary experience drives him back into the kitchen where dad, who had himself transformed into a hairy, scowling gorilla, offers a bowl of applesauce and reverts bit by bit over a wordless spread as amity is restored. Aside from an early remark that papa “sounds like a mom when he sings in the bath,” there’s no sign of a second adult.

Reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are in its visual transformations and emotional intensity, but with a more present and openly loving parent. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55498-186-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Science writing at its grossest and best, though as the title (not to mention the blood-spattered pages) warns, not for the...

ZOMBIE MAKERS

TRUE STORIES OF NATURE'S UNDEAD

Solid (sometimes writhing) proof that the scariest zombie flicks have nothing on Nature.

To demonstrate that there are indeed real zombies—“closer than you think”—Johnson (Journey into the Deep, 2010; iPad app, 2011) introduces a select set of fungi, worms, viruses and wasps that invade the bodies and take over the brains of their victims. Enhanced by large and often deliciously disturbing color photos, her descriptions of each parasite’s life cycle is both specific and astonishing; not only does the fungus O. unilateralis force a carpenter ant to clamp itself to a leaf (before sending a long reproductive stalk out of its head) for instance, it even somehow strengthens the ant’s mouth muscles. The author tracks similarly focused physical and behavioral changes not just in insects, but in other creatures too, including rabies-infected mammals. Lest human readers feel left out of the picture, she mentions the protozoan T. gondii, which causes rats to engage in reckless behavior and also has infected up to a quarter of all the adults and teens in this country. In each chapter, Johnson reports back on conversations with scientists engaged in relevant research, and she closes with a quick look at telling signs in the fossil record.

Science writing at its grossest and best, though as the title (not to mention the blood-spattered pages) warns, not for the squeamish. (author's note, glossary, notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8633-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

There is much to enjoy here, and the illustrations and allusions beg for repeat readings.

WHAT'S THE TIME, MR. WOLF?

Readers check in on Mr. Wolf every hour of his birthday, but it seems like the poor guy just can’t catch a break on his special day.

Four-and-twenty blackbirds wake him up (at 7 a.m.), asking him the titular question. His grumpy answer? “It’s time for blackbird pie.” His porcine neighbors keep him from a snooze by slamming their doors on their way to work (“time for bacon sandwiches”). And the day continues in this vein: The letter carrier (a girl in a red hood) skips his house, his cupboard is bare, it rains on the way to the store, and every hour, fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters check in on Mr.Wolf, asking him for the time. But readers won’t need to ask for the time. A marvelous mix of timepieces is scattered throughout the text and includes analog and digital clocks of all sorts: a sundial, a pocket watch, a wristwatch and a cuckoo clock, among others. By the time the hapless birthday boy is awoken from his nap by a fiddle-playing cat, observant readers will have guessed the “surprise” ending. But the time-telling practice and literary references aren’t even the best treasure here. Gliori’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations are both detailed and delicately executed, charming and wowing at the same time.

There is much to enjoy here, and the illustrations and allusions beg for repeat readings. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-3432-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Hats off! (Picture book. 4-8)

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THIS IS NOT MY HAT

From the Hat Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Klassen combines spare text and art to deliver no small measure of laughs in another darkly comic haberdashery whodunit.

While not a sequel to I Want My Hat Back (2011), the story does include a hat, a thief (a little fish) and a wronged party (a big fish). This time, first-person narration follows the thief, whose ego far outstrips his size as he underestimates the big fish’s tracking abilities. Meanwhile, much of the art follows the big fish on his hunt, creating a pleasing counterpoint with the text. For example, a page reading “…he probably won’t notice that it’s gone” shows not the thieving piscine narrator but the big fish looking up toward the top of his own bare head; he clearly has noticed that his hat is gone, and the chase is on! Sublime book design exploits the landscape format, with dogged movement from left to right across the double-page spreads. This culminates in a page reading “I knew I was going to make it,” as the little fish disappears on the recto into plants evocative of Leo Lionni’s setting in Swimmy (1963), while a narrow-eyed big fish enters the verso. The little fish is clearly doomed—a fact coyly confirmed by wordless page turns revealing the big fish swimming away, now from right to left, hat firmly on head.

Hats off! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5599-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Wonderfully exuberant and completely delightful.

MAN FROM THE LAND OF FANDANGO

There’s fun for all when the man from Fandango comes to call.

An unnamed and silent boy and girl paint a colorful figure that jumps right off the paper, bringing excitement, happy games and music. He cavorts and flies and dances with a bear and a bison, while a baboon plays a bassoon accompaniment. A frolicsome kangaroo and a dinosaur join in the rumpus along with the ecstatic children. The action races along at a breathless pace as words both real and created sing the rhymed tale that “bingles and bangles and bounces,” as they all “tingle and tongle and tangle.” The text winds and moves in arcs across the pages in the very aptly named Heatwave typeface. Watercolor-and-collage illustrations work with the shaped text, curving and swirling in hills and valleys. Every animal and human is joyful and fully engaged in the moment. The bison sports red high-fashion shoes, and there are bubbles and stars and all sorts of brightly hued shapes flying about, along with the magical man who dances and juggles without reference to gravity. The late Mahy's New Zealand syntax and humor are on fine display here, and young readers will wish that the Fandango man would appear more than once in 500 years.

Wonderfully exuberant and completely delightful. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-81988-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Read unhurried, in a lap, again and again.

BOOT & SHOE

This gem about canine siblings goes from peaceful routine to funny mayhem to erroneous bereavement—and relief.

Littermates Boot and Shoe are small, white dogs with black tails and fur flopping over their eyes. Only their leg coloring differs, giving rise to their names. Boot spends daytime on the back porch, Shoe the front, a habit “perfect for both of them”; they share supper bowl, dog bed and a specific tree for peeing on. Gouache and black pencil create warm vignettes and sturdy spreads with a vibe both lively and mellow. Creamy, speckled paper matches organic, hand-lettered text. One day, a chattering squirrel gets “all up in [their] business,” and the dogs go berserk. To symbolize two dogs and one squirrel in a mad dash, upward of 80 squirrel figures race around the yard and over the roof with a similar number of dog figures in hot pursuit. Post-chase, exhausted, each dog finds himself on the wrong porch. Tragically in sync, they circle the house simultaneously to find each other, preventing their own success. Each progresses from patience—hunger, rain, waiting overnight—to true grief, sure the other’s gone. Dog posture, value and composition create poignant pangs—and stunned joy as the dogs reunite when (and where) nature calls. Frazee conveys painful and soothing depth with ease, which is especially impressive given that Boot and Shoe’s eyes can't be seen.

Read unhurried, in a lap, again and again.   (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2247-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Loud and clear, the creators show how tuning into everyday sounds can inspire music. Clap, clap, CLAP! (Picture Book. 3-7)

SQUEAK, RUMBLE, WHOMP! WHOMP! WHOMP!

Marsalis and Rogers, who collaborated on the scintillating Jazz ABZ (2005), reunite for this sonic celebration for the younger crowd.

Marsalis contributes 10 three-line verses that crackle with invented sound words. Most verses link a couple of everyday sounds with one made by a musical instrument: “Big trucks on the highway RRRRUMBLE. / Hunger makes my tummy GRrruMBle. / The big bass drum goes “Bum! Brrrum! BRRRUMBLE!!!!” Rogers’ digitally colored ink drawings depict a New Orleans setting. The narrator, an African-American boy in white high-tops, exudes curiosity and cool (and plays trumpet). Those onomatopoeic words, elegantly red-dressed in Caslon 540 Italic, will challenge readers and delight listeners. Marsalis’ choices seem just right: “Chrrrick chrrrick chrrrick chrrrick—buttering my toast.” An upright bass emits “Doom, Doom, Doom, Blap! Doom, Doom, Slap!” Rogers’ hip, playfully cartoonish spreads pop with clever visual allusions to jazz tunes and players. Hand-lettered lyrics to a popular funeral song blow out of a church band’s instruments; indeed, the tuba’s bell forms the “O” for “O[h] didn’t he ramble.” An ambulance’s side reads “U.M.M.G. Ambulance,” a brilliant reference to the Billy Strayhorn tune whose titular acronym means “Upper Manhattan Medical Group.” The final spread rounds up a cacophony of sounds, from “Squeak” and “Schuk-chuk” to “BAP!”

Loud and clear, the creators show how tuning into everyday sounds can inspire music. Clap, clap, CLAP! (Picture Book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3991-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources)...

DRUMMER BOY OF JOHN JOHN

Winston, a boy in Trinidad, wishes that he could play in a band and win free rotis, the delicious island specialty prepared by the Roti King and presented to the best performers at Carnival.

In the weeks before Carnival, the people of the Caribbean island are busy sewing costumes, and bands are busy rehearsing with their gourds, bamboo sticks, bottles-and-spoons and drums. Winston hears the sounds that his mango pit makes when he chucks it into a junkyard. Inspired, he tries out different cans and tins, listening carefully to their different notes. More experimentation follows, and soon, he is performing for his neighbors. Friends join him to form a band made up of “pots and pans, tins and cans in a rainbow of colors.” The sounds are winningly irresistible, and Winston and his fellow musicians soon enjoy their “folded pancakes filled with chicken and secret herbs and spices.” Greenwood’s story is based on the childhood of Winston Simon, the 20th-century musician credited with the invention of the steel drum. The text is filled with a cacophony of musical words that are fun and challenging to read aloud. Lessac’s gouache paintings pulsate with sun-drenched island colors and often resemble a folk-art quilt.

A joy to read. Play calypso music and celebrate! (author’s note, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s sources) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60060-652-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A work of breadth and energy, just like its subject; engaging and brimming with appeal for a wide audience.

ELECTRIC BEN

A beautifully realized labor of love and affection brings to life one of our brightest founding fathers.

Ben Franklin’s multiple geniuses might be too large to be contained in a simple narrative, but Byrd finds a way to convey with warmth and enthusiasm an appreciation for the long and influential life that Franklin lived as printer, inventor and statesman. Byrd’s sparkling marriage of text and illustration lowers the barriers to comprehending the brilliance, energy, passion and inventiveness of this early American phenom. Four generously wide columns across each opening offer a space for the straightforward, clear-voiced narrative accompanied by full-color, captioned artwork—sometimes several illustrations on a page—along with charming, brief inset quotations from Franklin’s writings. The design evokes the two-columned early newspapers that Franklin might have known. Byrd’s prose is respectful of his young readers and sophisticated at the same time, providing historical and cultural context for events and significant moments in Franklin’s life and selecting from a very big life the stories that best convey a sense of the personality and character of the man. The artwork and distinctive design must stand as markers for readers who want to return to specific places in the text, as there are neither page numbers nor an index. However, a comprehensive timeline and bibliography will serve young scholars well, and the author’s notes add to an understanding of both Franklin and the historical record about him.

A work of breadth and energy, just like its subject; engaging and brimming with appeal for a wide audience. (Biography. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3749-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

This extraordinary new picture book masterfully tackles the complex task of contextualizing seemingly complex architectural...

DREAMING UP

A CELEBRATION OF BUILDING

Hale turns her educated eye to modern and contemporary architecture and produces a book that is at once groundbreaking, child-friendly and marvelously inclusive.

With a celebratory tone, Hale cleverly structures this unusual picture book by matching a series of lively concrete poems and vignettes of young children at play (creating simple structures of all types) with carefully selected photos of complementary, emblematic 20th- and 21st-century structures. Mud pies are compared to Hassan Fathy’s all-earthen New Gourna Village (Luxor, Egypt); beachfront sand castles to Antoni Gaudí’s soaring La Sagrada Família Basilica (Barcelona, Spain); busy LEGO® projects with Moshe Safdie’s modular Habitat 67 housing (Montréal, Québec); cardboard-tube models to Shigeru Ban’s amazing Paper Tube School (Sichuan Provence, China); tongue-depressor/Popsicle-stick and white-glue crafts with the vertical slats of David Adjaye’s Sclera Pavilion (London, England); and the “soft forms / tumble making / ever-changing / caverns, secret spaces” of pillow forts with Frank Gehry’s curvilinear Guggenheim (Bilbao, Spain). Well-organized and accessible backmatter contains the photo, name and location of each of the 15 highlighted structures, a brief biography of and a telling quote from each structure’s architect, and Hale’s own portrait of each designer.

This extraordinary new picture book masterfully tackles the complex task of contextualizing seemingly complex architectural concepts within a child’s own world of play. (Informational picture book/poetry. 2-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60060-651-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

This may not be the most exciting or enthralling winter tale, but it is perfect for sharing during readers’ own cold...

COLD SNAP

A community caught under the pall of a weeklong cold snap comes together in this cozy, old-fashioned story that is high on both charm and appeal.

The Toby Mills cold snap begins innocently enough on a Friday, with snow angels, sledding and an icicle on the nose of the statue of the town founder. On Saturday, soup and stew are popular menu items at the diner, and the icicle is chin-length. On Sunday, the heavily clothed townspeople shiver through church services. Wednesday is so cold that the mayor wears his robe and pink bunny slippers…at work. By Friday, the statue’s icicle reaches the ground, along with everyone’s patience. But the mayor’s wife has just the solution—a warm winter surprise that brings out the best in everyone and makes them forget the cold. The quaint details in Spinelli’s text that are brought to life in Priceman’s gouache illustrations make this book stand out, giving it the air of an old-fashioned seek-and-find. “Franky Tornetta stopped whining about his itchy woolen socks and put on three pairs,” and there he is in the picture, green socks layered over red and yellow. Boldly colored vignettes and spreads that depict the small-town setting and round-headed, pink-cheeked characters enhance the retro feel of the book.

This may not be the most exciting or enthralling winter tale, but it is perfect for sharing during readers’ own cold snaps—calming, reassuring, charming. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-85700-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Be forewarned: Youngsters will find Charley as irresistible as Henry does and will no doubt beg for puppies of their own.

CHARLEY'S FIRST NIGHT

The tenderness a child feels for his new puppy seeps from the pages of a book sure to be instantly beloved.

 “I carried him in my old baby blanket, which was soft and midnight blue, and we were new together and I was very, very careful not to slip in the snow and I thought about his name.” Charley Korn is the puppy; the young narrator is Henry Korn. Hest’s stream-of-consciousness sentences are interspersed with short, declarative statements and bits of dialogue, creating a dreamy, lyrical cadence. Oxenbury’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are infused with softness and warmth, depicting the loving bond between boy and dog. Even the design of the book, with text and pictures set within wide borders on each page, inspires a feeling of intimacy. Once home, Henry shows Charley around ("This is home, Charley") and recounts his parents’ expectations, including the one where Charley will sleep in the kitchen—alone—forever. Henry dutifully arranges Charley’s bed, but the nighttime crying begins. After the second rescue, Henry shows Charley his room, where Charley wants to be put on Henry’s bed—or so Henry interprets. Thus the two spend the night, predictably the first of many, cuddled together.

Be forewarned: Youngsters will find Charley as irresistible as Henry does and will no doubt beg for puppies of their own. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4055-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience.

SPIRIT SEEKER

JOHN COLTRANE'S MUSICAL JOURNEY

In attuned counterpoint, Golio and Gutierrez present a portrait of John Coltrane’s lifelong quest to discover and share his spiritual truth through music.

Beginning with John’s 12th year, Golio traces his religious roots: Grandfather Blair, a Methodist minister, headed a household that included John’s parents, aunt and cousin. Within two years, his grandparents, father and uncle died, splintering the family. In one bright spot, a pastor began a community band, leading to a borrowed sax and lessons for John. His musical gift bloomed amid loneliness and setbacks. Touring’s pressures led to alcohol and drug dependence. Golio continuously weaves such biographical details into the tapestry of spiritual longing that characterized Coltrane’s life. “He began falling asleep onstage. Or showing up late, only to be fired. Part of him stood in the darkness, while another part was searching for the light.” Gutierrez’s full-bleed acrylic paintings pulse with emotional intensity and iconic religious images; Coltrane is often shown with a halo or wings. Expressionist color channels Coltrane’s psychic life: His hobby-filled childhood is sweet potato pie–sunny; a scene of drug withdrawal is moonlit black. Portraits of jazz influences—Dizzy, Duke, Bird—appear throughout. Coltrane’s spiritual apex, a vision coinciding, Golio notes, with the development of his masterwork, A Love Supreme, is depicted with John meditating, Buddha-like against glowing pink.

Lyrically narrated, resplendently illustrated, and deeply respectful of both subject and audience. (afterword, author’s and artist’s notes, bibliography, discography) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-23994-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

An outstanding achievement and a life worthy of note.

FIFTY CENTS AND A DREAM

YOUNG BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

A former slave fulfills his quest for an education and much more in this superbly designed tribute to an oft-maligned African-American educator and author.

The young Washington, who learned his letters from a spelling book his mother gave to him, hears about Hampton College in Virginia, over 500 miles away. With the help of neighbors who share their precious coins, he travels, mostly on foot, from West Virginia with hunger, cold and weariness as constant companions. Asim’s lyrical text transforms the journey into a spiritual awakening for a young man who had “a dream in his soul.” Collier is in brilliant Caldecott Honor style, using his signature watercolor paintings and cut-paper collage to incorporate elements from Booker’s life and visions into each illustration. A map route is a design on his shirt, and letters and words from the speller he cherished decorate the pages. Each tableau is beautifully composed and balanced with textured colors and patterns. The cover display type and the endpapers, which are taken from Webster’s American Spelling Book, embellish this ode to book learning. Washington’s was not a life filled with anger and fiery oratory. Rather, Asim and Collier laud his steadfast determination and lifelong dedication to learning.

An outstanding achievement and a life worthy of note. (additional facts, author’s note, illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-08657-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

Hole-y astronomy! (timeline, glossary, author’s note, bibliography, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE

Oh, my stars! As the cover proclaims, a black hole may not be an actual hole, but readers will be glad they fell into this book.

The volume guides readers on a (literally) out-of-this-world tour, dealing with topics and concepts that, in the hands of a less-gifted writer, might have remained obscure and unclear. DeCristofano handles the material with wit, style and singularly admirable clarity, frequently employing easy-to-understand and, yes, down-to-earth ideas and scenarios to help make complex principles comprehensible to readers of all ages. Carroll’s illustrations, diagrams and charts, along with superb telescopic photographs (many courtesy of NASA) are splendid and filled with the drama and excitement of the limitless vastness of space. The handsome design and visuals greatly enhance the text and add much to readers’ grasp of the subject. Stargazers will be entranced, and even those not especially attuned to matters celestial will come away feeling smarter, awestruck and with a sense of finally understanding this fascinating, other-worldly phenomenon. An excellent resource.

Hole-y astronomy! (timeline, glossary, author’s note, bibliography, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-57091-783-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

A beautiful tale of perseverance.

THE WILD BOOK

A young girl tackles a learning disability and the uncertainty of daily life in early-20th-century Cuba.

Ten years old at the tale’s opening, Josefa “Fefa” de la Caridad Uría Peña lives with her parents and 10 siblings on their farm, Goatzacoalco. Diagnosed with “word blindness” (a misnomer for dyslexia), Fefa struggles at school and in a home rich with words, including the writings of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío. Discounting a doctor’s opinion that “Fefa will never be able / to read, or write, / or be happy / in school,” her mother gives her a blank diary: “Let the words sprout / like seedlings, / then relax and watch / as your wild diary / grows.” Basing her tale on the life of her maternal grandmother, Engle captures the frustrations, setbacks and triumphs of Fefa’s language development in this often lyrical free-verse novel. Her reading difficulties are heightened when bandits begin roving the countryside, kidnapping local children for ransom: “All I can think of / is learning how / to read / terrifying / ransom notes.” The author gives readers a portrait of a tumultuous period in Cuban history and skillfully integrates island flora, fauna and mythology into Fefa’s first-person tale. This canvas heightens Fefa’s determination to rise above the expectations of her siblings, peers and society.

A beautiful tale of perseverance. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-58131-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell.

THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE

Deza Malone had a brief appearance in Curtis’ multiple–award-winning novel, Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2000). Now, she is the dynamic and engaging heroine of her own story.

Deza takes great pride in being the best student in school and the champion of her musically gifted but challenged older brother. Although the Malones are barely surviving the Depression in Gary, Ind., Deza has a strong sense of self and hope for a better life. As she writes in her school essay, “We are the only family in the world, in my ken, that has a motto of our own! That motto is ‘We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.’ I can’t wait until we get there!” Despite severe economic and racial restrictions, the strength of their familial bond remains strong, but even that connection is sorely tested when Mr. Malone returns to his hometown of Flint, Mich., seeking work. Deza, her brother Jimmie and their mother set out to find him as their situation becomes dire. With his distinctive style of storytelling that seamlessly presents the hardships and finds the humor in tough circumstances, Curtis forges the link between characters and readers. The fluidity of the writing, the strong sense of place and time combined with well-drawn characters will captivate and delight.

Deza is one great heroine in her own right, a fitting literary companion to Bud Caldwell. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73491-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

A GREYHOUND OF A GIRL

Twelve-year-old Mary O’Hara is surrounded by good-humored women…her mum at home, her mum’s mum, who is dying in Dublin’s Sacred Heart Hospital, and her mum’s mum’s mum, who has just materialized as a ghost on her street.

That’s four generations of Irish women, all whirling about in some state of consciousness or another, and it’s enough to make Mary dizzy. Mary is a cheeky girl, like many almost-teenagers, but she’s levelheaded enough to embrace the ghostly visits from her great-grandmother Tansey, who looks young but “talks old” because she died at age 25 in 1928. Tansey’s spirit is sticking around for her dying daughter, Mary’s granny, to reassure her “it’ll all be grand” in the great beyond and, as it turns out, to join her family for one last tearful, mirthful midnight road trip. Doyle divides up the novel by character, giving readers first-hand glimpses into the nature of each woman through time. In a lovely, lilting Irish dialect, he deftly explores the common threads of their lives through story and memory, from family-owned racing greyhounds to the traumatic dropping of an egg. On the subject of mortality, Mary says, “…it just seems mean.” Her mother agrees. “It does seem mean. Especially when it’s someone you love.” Indeed. A warm, witty, exquisitely nuanced multigenerational story.  (Fiction. 10-14)

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0168-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

Art lovers of all ages will revel in this vivid, wonderfully affecting book, which is almost as ingenious and memorable as...

CHUCK CLOSE: FACE BOOK

A magnificent interactive "face book" portrait of the artist.

This book grew out of a studio visit/conversation between Close and a dozen Brooklyn fifth graders. Through the kids' simple questions and the artist's forthright answers, readers eavesdrop on the event and witness the ongoing dialogue between an artist and his unforgettable, iconographic work. Close discloses struggles with childhood ill health and severe dyslexia. He tells how his early artistic promise was nurtured by caring parents and teachers and how he adjusted for his prosopagnosia (face blindness) by sketching the faces of his students. He also shares how the steady progress of a rewarding career and warm family life was nearly derailed by his near-total paralysis after the 1998 collapse of a spinal artery. He also discloses the many "hows" of his astonishing technique: how he uses gridded photos to build his faces and how he works from his wheelchair and wields his brush with less-abled hands. Readers witness his discipline and see how he works in a dizzying variety of media. At the book's brilliant center is the irresistible opportunity to "mix 'n' match" various eyes, noses and mouths among 14 of the artist's arresting self-portraits. 

Art lovers of all ages will revel in this vivid, wonderfully affecting book, which is almost as ingenious and memorable as Close himself. (timeline, glossary, list of resources and illustration credits) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0163-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

A real slice of family life, the sweet with the bitter. (Fiction. 5-8)

SADIE AND RATZ

Sadie and Ratz, Hannah’s menacing hands, help her to handle her sibling rivalry in this piercingly intelligent foray into chapter books by much-awarded teen author Hartnett.

Hannah lives with her parents and her stick insect, Pin. She would like to have a real pet, but all she has is the disappointing Baby Boy, who is the object of Sadie and Ratz’s anger. When he does the things little brothers do (going into her room, changing the channel or using markers), Sadie and Ratz wake up, jump onto Baby Boy’s head and rub his ears off. One day, the game is changed when Baby Boy starts acting like a crafty 4-year-old.  He spills milk, writes on the wall and breaks a valuable timepiece but blames everything on his sister’s naughty hands. When Pin is found missing a leg after Hannah sends her hands on vacation, the parents start to see the truth. The tale is accompanied by warm, expressive gestural charcoal drawings on every page that add much to the story, drawing readers' eyes to the characters' real feelings. Ending on the hopeful note that Baby Boy’s hands and Hannah’s hands are going to be friends, this is one story of sibling rivalry that seems realistic. The kids might not be friends, but their naughty hands can be! For big sisters and Baby Boys adjusting to each other.

A real slice of family life, the sweet with the bitter. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5315-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS

THE STORY BEHIND AN AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met only three times, but their friendship changed a nation.

Lincoln was white and president of the United States; Douglass was black and a former slave. Yet they were kindred spirits: Both had risen from poverty to prominence, both were self-educated men and both had a book in common: Caleb Bingham’s The Columbian Orator. In fact, 12-year-old Douglass was secretly reading the book of speeches and dialogues in Baltimore at the same time Lincoln was reading it in Illinois, and the appendix here presents an excerpt, “Dialogue between a Master and Slave.” When they first met, in 1863, the nation was at war. Lincoln struggled to keep the nation together, while Douglass welcomed war as a first step toward ending slavery; Douglass was ever the voice of moral conscience, nudging Lincoln to do the right thing on behalf of the enslaved. In this slim volume, Freedman makes a narrative challenge look effortless. He tells the stories of two prominent Americans, traces the debate over slavery from the Missouri Compromise to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision and explains how these events created a momentum that pushed the nation toward war. He does all of this in a lucid and fascinating narrative that never sacrifices depth and intellectual rigor.

A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting.   (selected bibliography, notes, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-38562-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

A fine, taut novel full of understanding.

NOW

Once and Then (2010, 2011) blend into Now in today's Australia as Dr. Felix Salinger, 80, relates his childhood and shows his present to his 11-year-old granddaughter, narrator Zelda.

What occurs in their todays smoothly links the old story of Felix's horrific childhood in Nazi-controlled Poland with sometimes-happy, sometimes-unpleasant events in a small bush town. The girl is staying with Felix because her physician parents are in Darfur to help its people through a modern genocidal catastrophe. Local girls bully Zelda in the opening scene, and readers should be shocked and frightened by this experience. When Felix meets the bullies, in his anger he says, "Don't you know anything?"—a sharp echo of the very young Zelda of decades ago. Today's Zelda is named for her, but it is a weight, since the girl of the present feels she cannot live up to that other, long-dead girl, hanged by the Germans for an act of defiance that allowed Felix to escape the noose. A bush fire of horrendous size, fury and speed tests the mettle of the two, and Gleitzman's description of it is brilliant in its realism. Readers of the first two books will recognize a great deal, and those who have not should read them to gain a fuller picture of the years before and those in which we live. 

A fine, taut novel full of understanding. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9378-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Light on explicit grue but well endowed with macabre detail and leavening dashes of humor.

ON THE DAY I DIED

STORIES FROM THE GRAVE

Nine creepy tales told by dead teens and positively tailor-made for reading—or reading aloud—by flashlight.

Fleming uses a version of “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” as a frame story and draws inspiration from several classic horror shorts, monster movies and actual locales and incidents. Within this frame, she sends a teenager into a remote cemetery where ghostly young people regale him with the ghastly circumstances of their demises. These range from being sucked into a magical mirror to being partially eaten by a mutant rubber ducky, from being brained by a falling stone gargoyle at an abandoned asylum to drowning in a car driven by a demonic hood ornament. Tasty elements include a malign monkey’s paw purchased at a flea market, a spider crawling out of a corpse’s mouth and a crazed florist who collects the heads of famous gangsters. Amid these, the author tucks in period details, offers one story written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe (“As I pondered the wallpaper, its patterns seemed to crawl deep inside me, revealing dark secrets… No!”) and caps the collection with perceptive comments on her themes and sources.

Light on explicit grue but well endowed with macabre detail and leavening dashes of humor. (Horror/short stories. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86781-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Imaginative and utterly bewitching.

LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL

From the Zita the Spacegirl series , Vol. 2

Lovable Zita returns in a charmingly dashing interplanetary adventure to save yet another doomed planet from impending peril.

After saving both a planet and her best friend, Zita has achieved renown as an intergalactic hero and is greeted with adulation wherever she travels. In the midst of her fame, a lone, archaic Imprint-o-Tron—a robot that was built for companionship but took its "imprinting" too far—spies a Zita poster and immediately takes on her likeness. The bot’s mimicry is so exact that it quickly becomes difficult to tell the real Zita from the impostor. A sudden turn of events leads to the real Zita making a felonious—although necessary—decision, instantly transforming her public image from that of hero to outlaw. Faced with saving another planet, the real and fake Zitas must find a middle ground and work together, redefining what it really means to be a hero when they set out to rescue the Lumponians from the cutely named but very deadly Star Hearts, villainous parasites capable of destroying entire planets. Hatke’s arrestingly vibrant art commands instant adoration of its reader. Zita’s moxie is positively contagious, and her adventures are un-put-downable. Readers would be hard-pressed to not find something to like in these tales; they’re a winning formula of eye-catching aesthetics and plot and creativity, adeptly executed.

Imaginative and utterly bewitching. (Graphic science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-447-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Not so much a set of retellings as a creative romp through traditional and tradition-based story-scapes, compulsively...

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IN A GLASS GRIMMLY

The author of A Tale Dark and Grimm (2010) starts over—sending young Jack and Jill on a fresh quest for self-knowledge through trials and incidents drawn (stolen, according to the author) from a diverse array of European folk and fairy tales.

Foolishly pledging their lives to finding the long-lost Seeing Glass, cousins Jack and Jill, with a three-legged talking frog to serve as the now-requisite comical animal sidekick, set out from the kingdom of Märchen. They climb a beanstalk, visit a goblin market and descend into a fire-belching salamander’s lair (and then down its gullet). In a chamber of bones (“It gave new meaning to the term rib vaulting”), they turn the tables on a trio of tricksy child eaters. Injecting authorial warnings and commentary as he goes, Gidwitz ensures that each adventure involves at least severe embarrassment or, more commonly, sudden death, along with smacking great washes of gore, vomit and (where appropriate) stomach acid. Following hard tests of wit and courage, the two adventurers, successful in both ostensible and real quests, return to tell their tales to rapt children (including one named “Hans Christian,” and another “Joseph,” or “J.J.”) and even, in the end, mend relations with their formerly self-absorbed parents.

Not so much a set of retellings as a creative romp through traditional and tradition-based story-scapes, compulsively readable and just as read-out-loudable. (source note) (Fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-42581-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

In the end, Houdini realizes that writing has changed him and altered his perspective on people and life. Readers will feel...

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH, JR., AKA HOUDINI

A middle-schooler writes a kids’ novel; an author writes an engaging, amiable read—and, presto, a tale about a boy nicknamed Houdini turns out magical.

When your name is John Smith, you need to have something going for you. What this 13-year-old—alas, no relation to the dude of Pocahontas fame—has is a fascination with the master escape artist. After an author’s visit to his classroom, John creates a novel, formed from the very novel kids are reading, and devises a series of lists to guide him. He also relies on adventures with his two best buds; a misunderstood Vietnam vet and his pit bull; and the neighborhood bully. By turns poignant and downright hilarious, Houdini’s story/novel is delivered in a voice that’s wonderfully authentic. Johnson expertly handles real male middle school friendships, issues and angst and doesn’t avoid some tough contemporary realities: Domestic troubles, the prospect of Dad losing his job and the pain arising from his older brother going missing in Iraq are handled realistically but sensitively.

In the end, Houdini realizes that writing has changed him and altered his perspective on people and life. Readers will feel the same way. And just try to get kids not to make their own lists or attempt their own novels. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-198890-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

A rich vein of wisdom runs through this highly entertaining, swashbuckling series debut.

THE CASE OF THE DEADLY DESPERADOS

From the P.K. Pinkerton series , Vol. 1

Twelve-year-old P.K. “Pinky” Pinkerton was born with a poker face—he can’t show or read emotion—but it’s not until he lands in Nevada Territory’s silver-mining country that he comes to terms with the hand he’s dealt.

This fast-paced and deadpan-funny Wild West adventure is Pinky’s first-person account, scrawled out as “last words” on ledger sheets in a mine shaft while three desperados hunt him down. These outlaws, seeking something valuable Pinky's Sioux ma had left behind, murdered his foster parents. Pinky narrowly escapes, jumping a stage to “Satan’s Playground,” or Virginia City of 1862, with its colorful mix of greedy gunslingers, “Celestials,” “Soiled Doves” and even Sam Clemens with the occasional jarring witticism. Best of all, he runs into Poker Face Jace who teaches him how to read people’s feet, “the most honest part of a man’s body.” Pinky is likable. A wannabe detective, he’s resourceful and smart, gutsy but not foolhardy…and partial to black coffee. Jace’s detailed lessons in human “tells” drag on a smidge, but readers will fully grasp how thirsty Pinky is for this information that’s more precious to him than silver. Wonderfully dry humor, vivid sensory descriptions of the mountain town and a genuinely appealing protagonist make this a standout.

A rich vein of wisdom runs through this highly entertaining, swashbuckling series debut. (1862 map of Virginia City, glossary) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25633-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a...

THE AMAZING HARRY KELLAR

GREAT AMERICAN MAGICIAN

A first-rate visual presentation accompanies a fascinating biography of the first dean of the Society of American Magicians, a man Houdini regarded as a mentor.

The son of German immigrant parents, Harry Keller (later Kellar) lived in his hometown of Erie, Penn., only until he was 10, when he hopped aboard a train bound for Cleveland, Ohio, in 1859. He apprenticed to a performing magician a couple of years later. Kellar’s career in magic and illusion led him to South America, England and Australia before he achieved recognition and success in the United States. Kellar’s meticulous attention to detail in the building of his illusions and in the staging of his performances led to his success. Traveling magic shows and established theatrical illusionists were a widespread entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, incorporating aspects of spiritualism (Kellar demonstrated that he could replicate anything a medium could do) and mechanical wonders like automatons in their performances. Kellar and his team borrowed from other well-known performers, and he worked to polish and improve the illusions to perfection. Few secrets of the illusions are revealed here, but Jarrow makes it clear that it was Kellar’s art that made them seem like real magic.

Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a consummate showman. (timeline, bibliography, annotated sources) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-865-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

Levinson builds her dramatic account around the experiences of four young arrestees—including a 9-year-old, two teenage...

WE'VE GOT A JOB

THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN'S MARCH

Triumph and tragedy in 1963 “Bombingham,” as children and teens pick up the flagging civil rights movement and give it a swift kick in the pants.

Levinson builds her dramatic account around the experiences of four young arrestees—including a 9-year-old, two teenage activists trained in nonviolent methods and a high school dropout who was anything but nonviolent. She opens by mapping out the segregated society of Birmingham and the internal conflicts and low levels of adult participation that threatened to bring the planned jail-filling marches dubbed “Project C” (for “confrontation”), and by extension the entire civil rights campaign in the South, to a standstill. Until, that is, a mass exodus from the city’s black high schools (plainly motivated, at least at first, almost as much by the chance to get out of school as by any social cause) at the beginning of May put thousands of young people on the streets and in the way of police dogs, fire hoses and other abuses before a national audience. The author takes her inspiring tale of courage in the face of both irrational racial hatred and adult foot-dragging (on both sides) through the ensuing riots and the electrifying September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, then brings later lives of her central participants up to date.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56145-627-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

LITTLE WHITE DUCK

A CHILDHOOD IN CHINA

A striking glimpse into Chinese girlhood during the 1970s and ’80s.

Beginning with a breathtaking dream of riding a golden crane over the city of Wuhan, China, Liu Na, recounts her subsequent waking only to discover that Chairman Mao has passed away. The 3-year-old finds this difficult to process and understand, although she is soon caught up in the somber mood of the event. From there, her life unfolds in short sketches. With this intimate look at her childhood memories, Liu skillfully weaves factual tidbits into the rich tapestry of her life. In the section titled “The Four Pests,” she explains about the four pests that plague China—the rat, the fly, the mosquito and the cockroach (with an additional explanation of how the sparrow once made this list, and why it is no longer on it)—and her stomach-turning school assignment to catch rats and deliver the severed tails to her teacher. In “Happy New Year! The Story of Nian the Monster,” she explains the origins of Chinese New Year, her favorite holiday, and her own vivid, visceral reflections of it: the sights, sounds and smells. Extraordinary and visually haunting, there will be easy comparisons to Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory (2011); think of this as the female counterpart to that work.

Beautifully drawn and quietly evocative. (glossary, timeline, author biography, translations of Chinese characters, maps) (Graphic memoir. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8115-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Bravo! (Fiction. 12 & up)

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SON

From the Giver Quartet series , Vol. 4

In this long-awaited finale to the Giver Quartet, a young mother from a dystopian community searches for her son and sacrifices everything to find him living in a more humane society with characters from The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004).

A designated Birthmother, 14-year-old Claire has no contact with her baby Gabe until she surreptitiously bonds with him in the community Nurturing Center. From detailed descriptions of the sterile, emotionally repressed community, it’s clear Lowry has returned to the time and place of The Giver, and Claire is Jonas’ contemporary. When Jonas flees with Gabe, Claire follows. She later surfaces with amnesia in a remote village beneath a cliff. After living for years with Alys, a childless healer, Claire’s memory returns. Intent on finding Gabe, she single-mindedly scales the cliff, encounters the sinister Trademaster and exchanges her youth for his help in finding her child, now living in the same village as middle-aged Jonas and his wife Kira. Elderly and failing, Claire reveals her identity to Gabe, who must use his unique talent to save the village. Written with powerful, moving simplicity, Claire’s story stands on its own, but as the final volume in this iconic quartet, it holistically reunites characters, reprises provocative sociopolitical themes, and offers a transcending message of tolerance and hope.

Bravo! (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-88720-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Just like Times Square itself, the pages are filled to the brim.

ONE TIMES SQUARE

A CENTURY OF CHANGE AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD

An unexpected history of a very famous intersection.

Millions of people begin each new year mesmerized by the ball drop atop One Times Square. But before all the glitz and flashing lights, Times Square was filled with carriages, livery stables and coal yards. It is a stark contrast that’s difficult to imagine. McKendry (Beneath the Streets of Boston: Building America’s First Subway, 2005) takes readers on a journey through 100 years of shifts and changes to this well-known New York City landscape. Beginning in 1904 when the New York Times headquarters was built and forever changed the name of this small plot of land, McKendry accompanies the text with a spectacular painting of the Square from a specific point of view. This same perspective is used repeatedly throughout the narrative, simultaneously grounding readers and letting them watch in awe as buildings and technology sprout and change. Interspersed with the Square’s history—during both thriving years and sordid ones—are fascinating tidbits such as the inner workings of billboards, the arrival of the Motograph News Bulletin (or the “Zipper”) and, of course, the exact number of light bulbs found in the 2000 Millennium ball. Cross sections, diagrams and stunning double-page spreads show how these few tiny streets have changed in very large ways.

Just like Times Square itself, the pages are filled to the brim. (sources) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56792-364-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

LULU AND THE DUCK IN THE PARK

From the Lulu series , Vol. 1

A warmhearted beginning to a new chapter-book series delights from the first few sentences.

“Lulu was famous for animals. Her famousness for animals was known throughout the whole neighborhood.” So it begins, revealing its bouncy language and its theme, illustrated by a cheery image of Lulu with bunnies at her feet, a parrot on her shoulder and a mouse in her hair. Lulu’s best friend is her cousin Mellie, who is famous for several things but most notably losing sweaters, pencils and everything else. Her teacher in Class Three is Mrs. Holiday, who endures the class guinea pig but does not think it needs animal companions, not even Lulu's dog. When the class goes to Tuesday swimming at the pool by the park, however, and Lulu finds a duck egg, which she takes back to class—that is not an animal, right? Well, not yet. What Lulu and Mellie do to protect the egg, get through class and not outrage Mrs. Holiday is told so simply and rhythmically, and so true to the girls’ perfectly-logical-for-third-graders’ thinking, that it will beguile young readers completely. The inclusion of the kid who always gets a bloody nose and a math lesson on perimeter only adds to the verisimilitude and the fun. Lulu’s classroom is full of children of all colors, and Lulu and Mellie are the color of strong tea with cream, judging from the cover.

Utterly winning. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4808-0

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A spectacular collection—“And,” the editor notes with remarkable understatement, “the pictures are pretty nice too!”...

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY

200 POEMS WITH PHOTOGRAPHS THAT SQUEAK, SOAR, AND ROAR!

Gathered by the United States children's poet laureate, 200 (mostly) lighthearted poems from the likes of Basho and Ben Franklin, Leadbelly, Jack Prelutsky and Joyce Sidman share space with eye-popping animal photographs.

A well-stirred mix of old and recent limericks, haiku, short lyrics, shaped poems and free verse, the poetry ranges far and wide. There are rib ticklers like Gelett Burgess’ “Purple Cow” and Laura E. Richards’ “Eletelephony” (the latter’s line “Howe’er it was, he got his trunk / Entangled in the telephunk” dated in these days of cellphones but still hilarious to read, especially aloud). Others are more serious, such as Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s graceful tribute to an indoor centipede—“a ballet of legs / gliding / skating / skimming / across the stage of white porcelain”—and David McCord’s elegiac “Cocoon.” All are placed on or next to page after page of riveting wildlife portraits (with discreet identifying labels), from a ground-level view of a towering elephant to a rare shot of a butterfly perched atop a turtle. Other standouts include a dramatic spray of white egret plumage against a black background and a precipitous bug’s-eye look down a bullfrog’s throat. Lewis adds advice for budding animal poets to the excellent bibliography and multiple indexes at the end.

A spectacular collection—“And,” the editor notes with remarkable understatement, “the pictures are pretty nice too!” (Poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4263-1009-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

BELLY FLOP!

From the Mal and Chad series , Vol. 3

It’s hard not to like a main character who brings a lab coat and briefcase to elementary school.

In one panel of this third outing for Mal and his talking dog, Chad, a boy is wearing a hat shaped like a giraffe. This is never explained, except that he’s auditioning for the talent show. The real reason for the hat, of course, is that McCranie likes to draw giraffes. It’s the same reason there’s a giant bust of Albert Einstein on the lawn of Mal’s school. Mal is a boy inventor, which gives the artist a chance to draw a clock with a robot hand popping out of it. “Why not invent an alarm clock that wakes you up gently…?” Mal asks rhetorically. The hand, he notes, “tenderly pats you on the head until you wake up.” Kid inventors are not popular at Einstein Elementary. Mal’s crush, Megan, won’t even invite him to her birthday party. Sometimes Mal will glance at her across the room, and she doesn’t look back. These scenes are drawn with as much skill as the giraffes and robots, and they are heartbreaking. In another panel, Mal sees Megan and skips into the air with joy. He’s a foot off the ground, and the tiny picture shows exactly how it feels to be in elementary school and in love. This emotional honesty alone is a reason to buy this book; the giraffe and Einstein are the icing on McCranie’s cake. (Graphic fiction. 8-11)    

 

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25658-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

A stunning debut.

THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO

Set in 1969, Manzano’s first novel offers a realistically mercurial protagonist struggling with her identity in Spanish Harlem.

Fourteen-year-old Rosa María Evelyn del Carmen Serrano is frustrated with life in El Barrio. Tired of working for her mother and stepfather in their bodega, she takes a job at a five-and-dime and hopes to trudge through the rest of the summer. Everything changes when her abuela arrives, taking over Evelyn’s bedroom and bearing secrets of the family’s involvement in Puerto Rico’s tumultuous history. When a group called the Young Lords begins working to bring positive changes to the neighborhood, some residents are resistant, including Evelyn’s mother. Led by her grandmother’s example, Evelyn begins to take an interest in the efforts of the activist group. As the months pass, the three generations of women begin to see one another’s perspectives, and Evelyn realizes the importance of her Puerto Rican heritage. Like most real-world teens, she changes subtly, rather than through one earth-shattering epiphany. The author effectively captures this shifting perception in the dialogue and Evelyn’s first-person narration. Secondary characters of surprising dimension round out the plot and add to the novel’s cultural authenticity, as do the Spanish and Spanglish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text so seamlessly that a glossary would be moot.

A stunning debut. (author’s note, recommended reading) (Historical novel. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32505-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.

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