WILLIE WINS

A tender but vital tribute to a father's love and a son's faith, as well as a gratifying sleeve across a bully's windpipe, from a talented newcomer. Willie, a young Filipino boy, must bring a bank to class for saving the play money his teacher will be handing out for extra work. His father gives him an alkansiya—a coconut-shell bank from the Philippines—but Willie worries that Stan, the class bad boy, will give him grief about it, just as he has been teasing him for striking out at baseball. "Plus, there's something special inside," his father says. So Willie puts up with Stan's jeers ("That's a loser's bank. It's ugly, and I'll bet it's empty, too") while nonetheless he harbors a trace of fear that his father's surprise will be something silly or that "only Dad thought was special, like the wooden water buffalo he kept on his desk." Willie works likes the dickens over the month and when it comes time to crack open the bank, not only has he earned the most money, but the special treasure inside the bank turns out to be very special indeed. An understated pearl of a story, humbly and somewhat awkwardly illustrated in deep-colored acrylics, with two affecting characterizations and an exemplary bond of love. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-58430-023-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation.

THE BEAR MUST GO ON

Four woodland animal friends put on a show.

Rabbit, Squirrel, and aptly named Other Squirrel (who has slightly redder fur than Squirrel) are a flurry of activity. They are going to put on a show. “A BIG show.…The BEST show!” It will have hats (tall ones), tickets (shiny ones), and a curtain (red—no, green). There are many decisions to be made. Bear, however, does not want to be part of it. He is too shy. He would prefer to be the note taker. Rabbit, Squirrel, and Other Squirrel fire off ideas, amending one another’s at furious speed, and Bear writes them all down. Scribbles appear in the white space surrounding the boulderlike ursine’s head. The ideas pile up; debut illustrator Todd deftly covers an entire page while Bear hunches in the middle, furiously writing. He hums a tune to keep himself calm. On the night of the performance, everything seems ready. Everything except…the show! They were so bogged down with the details, no one figured out what the show would be. The title gives away the ending from the very start, but Bear’s pluck is nevertheless laudable. Petty’s comedic quips are echoed in the frenzied art, with Bear looming large yet timid to ground it all. Limited, skilled use of panels helps to control the pacing.

A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3747-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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