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A thought-provoking and stimulating historical episode.

An Austrian farmer dreams of becoming an inventor.

As a child, Franz Gsellmann longed to create, but life on the farm didn’t leave much time for “dillydallying,” as his father put it. As an adult, he’s inspired by a visit to the 1958 World’s Fair in Belgium, especially by a “gleaming structure” encompassing an elevator, escalator, and lots of colorful lights. Vowing to achieve his dream of building a “fantastical magical phantasmagorical machine,” Franz tends to the farm in the mornings and spends his spare time gathering parts from the junkyard and tinkering in a spare room. No one in his family or the village can understand what he is doing, and when his first apparatus is complete and he flips the switch, it results in an electrical blackout. Despite ridicule from the villagers, Franz persists for 23 years, eventually producing an even bigger whirling, rumbling, and vibrating machine with 53 switches. Again misunderstood for its mechanical pointlessness, it becomes an object of kinetic art, mesmerizing the children who come to watch. Based on a true story, this account of one man’s pursuit will leave readers pondering the nature of inventions—does a creation need a clear purpose? Delicately detailed artwork featuring a deliberately discordant color scheme gives this quirky narrative a slightly surreal feel. Characters are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A thought-provoking and stimulating historical episode. (author’s note, information about Franz Gsellmann and his machine, bibliography, resources, puzzle) (Historical picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0325-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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