SHRINKING VIOLET

The creators of Three Cheers For Catherine the Great (1999) deal inventively with an all-too-common situation in this tale of a shy child finding the inner stuff to withstand a bully’s taunts. Classmate Irwin’s sly comments about fat knees and hairy arms have Violet nervously fingering her hair and trying to disappear. An upcoming class play about the planets looks like just another chance for Irwin to make her wilt in public, until her understanding teacher gives her the role of Lady Space, an offstage, invisible announcer. Better yet, when Irwin loses his concentration during the performance, Violet talks him back with unflattering ad-libs that sound like part of the script. Whether in school dress or globular planet costume, Potter’s figures seem to dance across the pages, showing a lively range of feelings through expression and body language. In the end, Irwin actually thanks Violet in private, and though he continues to rag on her in public, she’s gained enough self-confidence to ignore him. Wallflowers of all stripes will enjoy watching Violet putting Irwin in his place without raising the hostility level—a tricky, but effective, strategy. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-36882-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT

A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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