CRACKERJACK JACK

A practiced thief takes an unusual approach to stealing a treasure, with unexpected results.

Wilker’s language crackles and snaps in this brief but hilarious rhyming tale of a bank heist gone awry. Jack (“wisecracker, firecracker, knucklecracking crook”) is a safecracker with his eye on a particularly difficult safe “no other nut could crack.” Readers will notice that Jack’s plan begins before the title page, with Jack setting out a trail of crackers for a mallard drake. Jack’s plan? He trains the duck in the lighting of firecrackers and then smuggles it, concealed in a sack along with a supply of firecrackers, into the vault as a bank deposit. When the door blows off that night, however, Jack is knocked out—and nabbed for the crime—while the wily duck goes free to plan another caper: a satisfying comeuppance for such nervy, bad behavior on Jack’s part. Tremblay’s cartoon art is big and bold, filled with color and pattern, her characters a wonderfully goofy accompaniment to the text. Jack has light brown hair and lighter skin and wears a black burglar’s mask, his eyes big and round (as are the duck’s), like wheels with their center black dot for a pupil. The font is large and clear; great for early readers who will find the memorable rhymes easy to spot on the page.

A blast. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77147-244-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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RAIN SCHOOL

It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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