MARS NEEDS MOMS!

In a typically frenetic outing, the creator of the “Bloom County” and “Outland” comic strips pays tribute to motherhood. Though resentfully regarding Moms as “giant, summer-stealing, child-working, perfumy garden goblins,” Milo gives interplanetary chase when his own mom is abducted by Martians. They, as it turns out, have no mothers of their own, and so no one to do the housework or the driving to soccer practice and playdates. Only when he breaks his filched space helmet and his mother nearly makes the ultimate sacrifice to save him does the lad (and the chastened Martians) come to realize that Momhood includes loving him, as she puts it, “to the ends of the universe.” Breathed places digitally painted caricatures—including some comically ugly humans, jellybean-hued Monsters, Inc.–style aliens and a short blond lad with a graceful, gorgeous mother—against elaborate, out-of-focus backgrounds. He closes with a cozy scene of mother and child snuggled together in their Earthly bed, oblivious to a trio of antennaed peeping toms peering sentimentally through the window. Not exactly subtle, but likely to earn a chuckle or two from the No, David! crowd. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-399-24736-X

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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