WORD BUILDER

While the idea behind this visually dazzling effort has great potential, the execution may leave some feeling disappointed. In the world Paul and Cyrus have created, an androgynous construction worker hammers enormous letters into words, then piles the words into sentence towers that are held together with punctuation mortar. Framing organizes sentences into paragraphs, while stacked paragraphs create chapter cities. “Keep on building…until you have created…a whole world of book.” The pencil-and-digital artwork varies in perspective from extreme wide-angle to super–close-up views, maximizing the impact of the illustrations and the construction theme. However, for the purposes of teaching children about writing, a preponderance of wide-angle views might have been in order. While the text describes sentence towers and their punctuation mortar, readers never get to see a completed one. And beyond the sentence level, the buildings simply look like tall houses with a letter at the roofline. The final illustration is masterful—the view over the construction worker’s shoulder at the completed book, peopled with characters and full of action. For abstract thinkers, this could be a powerful tool. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3981-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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FOOTPRINTS ON THE ROOF

POEMS ABOUT THE EARTH

Nineteen poems, some rhymed, are paired with So’s (Countdown to Spring, p. 50, etc.) ink drawings. The poems are sometimes dry and sometimes didactic, but most are straightforward and occasionally giddy. So’s art is by turns whimsical, wild, or reticent. The title comes from “Burrows” a poem about the creatures that live under the “roof” of the earth: rabbits, foxes, snakes. The image of a dragon under the volcano in “Dormant Dragons” is beautifully realized as So turns wash and squiggle into the beast. “Winter Solstice” connects a wintry day in America with the first day of summer in Australia most charmingly. In “Go-Betweens”: “They issue warnings / They offer praise / This is trees’ work / and they do it with such uncomplaining grace / it never seems like work at all.” A swath of soft ink and a perfectly rendered rose reflect the turning of the year in “Summer Solstice”—“The richest garden / the greenest trees / will have a different form / wearing withered leaves like memories / of days when it was warm.” Esbensen’s venerable Cold Stars and Fireflies (1984) makes a nice accompaniment. (Poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81094-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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