An older sister’s literary torment of her brother backfires in this spooky tale of pirates. Ellery has chosen a library book that she’s sure will frighten young Max, who would rather read about cats than pirates. She maximizes the scare factor by waiting until dark to begin reading aloud with a flashlight. The text alternates between the italicized words of the library book and the action in the den, where the siblings are curled up in their sleeping bags. While Max tries to downplay each thing in the book, Ellery’s interpretations are downright evil. Where Max sees the Spanish moss hanging from the trees as green tinsel, Ellery tells him that it’s pirate’s hair. The pelicans aren’t stretching to catch raindrops in their bills—“They scream silent screams of pirate victims.” But gradually Ellery’s stories catch up with her. Will Max rescue her when the pirates step out of the book with their eye patches and hooks? Heh, heh, heh. Then she can go to the library and get that book about cats. Lamm (Prog Frince: A Mixed-Up Tale, 1999, etc.) has created two very creative children with wonderful imaginations. Schuett’s (Fat Chance Thanksgiving, p. 1215, etc.) oil paintings masterfully show the two children (and their black cat) growing more and more frightened. These are interspersed with pirate scenes that, although spooky, also show a kind of dark humor. In a beach scene, crabs watch the pirate ship with eyes that poke out of the sand on stalks, and on the pirates’ island, a skeleton keeps watch over the X that marks the spot. This is a tale best told at Halloween, but right any time a good scare is in order. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0392-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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