Not quite a knockout.

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THE FIVE FORMS

What happens when a novice takes martial arts into her own hands?

Chaos! An elementary-age girl with brown skin and straight black hair finds a guide to Chinese martial arts and ignores its warning: “Do not attempt these forms without an experienced teacher!” As she assumes the first form, crane, the giant bird materializes in her room, batting the books from her bookshelf, dumping out her backpack, and tugging on her ponytail. Returning to her book, the girl moves through three subsequent forms, conjuring more animals to join the crane in wreaking havoc—a towering leopard, an even larger snake, and, finally, a humongous dragon that spans two double-page spreads. Can a small girl tame these oversized, rambunctious animals and set her house back to rights? Yes, with a deus ex machina: while those child readers familiar with Chinese martial arts will likely expect the appearance of a tiger, traditionally the fifth animal in this group, McClintock instead offers a fifth form that “returns everything to the way it was.” Perhaps with an author's note, references, or additional resources, this might have worked, but as is, it’s a bit puzzling. McClintock’s art, bold brush strokes that mimic Chinese calligraphy, perfectly captures the vibrant energy of the story. But it also adds slight confusion when the girl, supposedly in the leopard stance, is shown with hands in tiger formation.

Not quite a knockout. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-216-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2017

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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