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RAINA’S (UN) HAPPY BIRTHDAY

An excellent book for sensitive young readers.

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Not all kids love hugs, and one little girl learns that it’s OK to speak up about it in Esmail’s debut picture book with watercolor images by Cooke.

Raina doesn’t like celebrating birthdays, and instead of getting excited when her mother mentions gifts she might get, “her stomach is in knots.” Specifically, Raina isn’t comfortable with her family members’ hugs and kisses on such occasions. Old Pa gives her a close hug and his bristly beard pokes her face, and a large uncle’s squeeze makes her feel embarrassed. Auntie’s touch makes Raina think of tentacles, and a cousin with a runny nose is told to give Raina a kiss. It’s all too much, and she yells that she hates her “unhappy birthdays.” Alone in her room, she speaks to her stuffed rabbit, who encourages her to tell the truth because her own feelings matter. She finds more comfortable ways to express love to her relatives, and this may inspire similarly sensitive readers to ask others to meet them on their own terms. Esmail offers a protagonist with whom cautious youngsters will identify, and the soft pastels of the watercolors create a comforting tone. Cooke also deftly creates unpleasant images from Raina’s imagination that readers won’t find threatening.

An excellent book for sensitive young readers.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 15

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

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Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamiltonand Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

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CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

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A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

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