A whimsically morose story that is elevated by its illustrations.

READ REVIEW

THE WOODEN FISH

A sentient wooden post ponders its lonely existence.

Running alongside painted grassy hills topped with white houses and rainbow-hued trees, “there was a great river flowing all year round.…The villagers had planned to build a bridge over the river, but for some strange reason, only one wooden post was ever put up.” Elongated sentences narrate the post’s initial dreams of being surrounded by fellow wooden posts topped with happy children clad in white, with some dancing around with flutes and wings. Sadly, the post wakes up to its fate that a bridge will never be built and grows jealous of the companionship that the stars and trees enjoy nearby. Visits from an egret, a fisherman, and a shepherd boy mitigate the solitude. Yet each happy moment is accompanied by pain, with the egret sharpening its claws on the post, the fisherman singing mournfully, and the shepherd boy throwing stones at the post from the shore. Gong’s textured, moody paintings swirl with movement when a flood snatches up the shepherd boy and he’s carried “away by the strong current!” The post saves the boy and ends up uprooted from its spot, floating to an open-ended fate. Cao’s artful storytelling is compelling and contemplatively paced, but it feels unbalanced with its hyperfocus on the darkness of desolation. Human characters all appear to be Chinese.

A whimsically morose story that is elevated by its illustrations. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-064-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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