An intriguing approach to learning a foreign language but rough around the edges: possibly of greatest interest to students...


An instructional tool for learning South African Sign Language is built around a distant cousin of “The Great Big Enormous Turnip.”

Presented optionally in English or Afrikaans, the standard cumulative storyline is reduced to a set of wooden cartoon tableaux in which a farming family is introduced, does chores, pulls a gigantic carrot (which only takes three screens) and, with help from the livestock, chows down. The text is likewise simplified and stilted—“The farmer’s wife feeds the chickens. The rooster is on the roof. The hen and her chicks peck at the mielies”—with verbs printed in a different color and nouns highlighted. Tapping separate icons activates an audio reading and a signed rendition in a small video screen in the corner. The two are not synchronized but can be run at once. Tapping highlighted nouns will prompt an audio pronunciation and, on the side, an identifying picture, a video signing and a hand-spelled diagram. Though SASL is based on American Sign Language, it is not the same, which limits the usefulness of this app and its several series mates on this side of the Atlantic. Moreover, along with being dull, the English text has several typos: “The carrot is to big!!” and other blunders should be corrected in an update.

An intriguing approach to learning a foreign language but rough around the edges: possibly of greatest interest to students of sign languages. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad instructional/story app. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Picsterbooks

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Each time the witch loses something in the windy weather, she and her cat are introduced to a new friend who loves flying on her broom. The fluid rhyming and smooth rhythm work together with one repetitive plot element focusing young attention spans until the plot quickens. (“Is there room on the broom for a blank such as me?”) When the witch’s broom breaks, she is thrown in to danger and the plot flies to the finish. Her friends—cat, dog, frog, and bird—are not likely to scare the dragon who plans on eating the witch, but together they form a formidable, gooey, scary-sounding monster. The use of full-page or even page-and-a-half spreads for many of the illustrations will ensure its successful use in story times as well as individual readings. The wart-nosed witch and her passengers make magic that is sure to please. Effective use of brilliant colors set against well-conceived backgrounds detail the story without need for text—but with it, the story—and the broom—take off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2557-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Only for dedicated fans of the series.


From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet