In the end, the questions and words are whole lotta fun, but it is the music the book makes that is the most arresting...

BOY WONDERS

This boy doesn't just wonder, he throws readers a forceful invitation: “May I ask you something? / Are you ever perplexed? / Completely vexed? / Do you have questions? / Queries? / Odd theories?” He does.

Brown’s book is in the grip of an effervescent momentum. Not that it really has anything to do with asking questions—of curiosity, of inquiry—though the boy sure does ask lots of questions. It is what, and especially how, he asks that spins the wheel. The story is shuttled along on Brown’s fine artwork: slightly jittery, slightly sinister, with blasts of color alternating with pages in shadow and clever interpretations of the boy’s increasingly loopy questions. His mind is a tinderbox to which Brown applies a match. “Do onions cry?” “Is water scared of waterfalls?” He adds some subversive wordplay as kindling: “Do clouds get jealous during storms, and steal each other’s thunder?” And “[i]f I’m too tired, am I a bike?” Soon thereafter, great logs are thrown on the fire. “Would a happy toucan / from the Yucatan / become cantankerous / up in Anchorage / or the Yukon? / What about Tucson?”

In the end, the questions and words are whole lotta fun, but it is the music the book makes that is the most arresting entertainment. (Picture book. 6 & up)

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7877-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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