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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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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