Glimpses of a writer’s life, with an engaging bid for sympathy at the travails thereof.


In this (presumably) made-up account, a promising picture-book project falls afoul of a series of aggravating mishaps.

Sitting in his tiny writing shed, narrator Ahlberg begins a brilliant narrative (“Little ducks dreaming / Afternoon nap / Riverbank steaming / Crocodile… / Snap!”). Alas, this proceeds to be splashed with spilled coffee, put on hold in the heat of composition by a family vacation, eaten by garden snails, and finally delivered to illustrator “Bruce”—who unilaterally decides to draw hippos because there are “too many crocodile books.” Then the editor wants to make changes too; an overeager designer must be likewise quelled; and the printer’s young daughter decides to “tidy up” the loose pages. The author mournfully offers on one side of a double gatefold his original vision (“Not Roald Dahl, of course, or Julia Donaldson even, but not bad”) and on the other, a spread-by-spread layout of the jumbled result, complete with changing typefaces, random sketches, mismatched orientations, sudden shifts to French and then Chinese, and a small chocolate handprint. His mild “Oh dear” at the end of this chain of calamities signals his intent to deliver a mild ribbing rather than vengeful slashing to his collaborators over the years. “Anyway, mustn’t grumble,” he writes midcourse. “That’s how a book gets made, after all. Teamwork.” The informal illustrations help to make light of the episode. Ingman’s nearly all-white cast inadvertently reinforces current criticisms of the industry.

Glimpses of a writer’s life, with an engaging bid for sympathy at the travails thereof. (Picture book. 7-9, adult)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65090-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?


When Bibi, her first and favorite babysitter, moves away, it takes all of August for 8-year-old Eleanor to get beyond her sense of loss and get used to a new caretaker. Her parents grieve, too; her mother even takes some time off work. But, as is inevitable in a two-income family, eventually a new sitter appears. Natalie is sensible and understanding. They find new activities to do together, including setting up a lemonade stand outside Eleanor’s Brooklyn apartment building, waiting for Val, the mail carrier, and taking pictures of flowers with Natalie’s camera. Gradually Eleanor adjusts, September comes, her new teacher writes a welcoming letter, her best friend returns from summer vacation and third grade starts smoothly. Best of all, Val brings a loving letter from Bibi in Florida. While the story is relatively lengthy, each chapter is a self-contained episode, written simply and presented in short lines, accessible to those still struggling with the printed word. Cordell’s gray-scale line drawings reflect the action and help break up the text on almost every page. This first novel is a promising debut. Eleanor’s concerns, not only about her babysitter, but also about playmates, friends and a new school year will be familiar to readers, who will look forward to hearing more about her life. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8424-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet