Educational content made entertaining.


From the Pierre & Paul series

Two friends battle a dragon and hunt for treasure in this bilingual adventure story of imaginative play.

Paul, a pale-skinned redhead with freckles, and Pierre, a brown-skinned boy with tight curls, are “friends and explorers.” They draw a treasure map, which they bring with them to take out the garbage. When they hear a roar, they use swords (sticks and rolled-up paper) and shields (a pizza box and the garbage-can lid) to defend themselves against a dragon, which is drawn on the page in Harold and the Purple Crayon fashion. Paul dies in the great battle but is revived by a lick from a passerby’s dog. The friends escape a poisonous swamp and arrive at the ocean. They take to sea on a boat but must swim to shore when a tsunami hits. The illustrations alternate between the real world inside and outside of Paul’s house in a city neighborhood, with pale, subdued backgrounds, and the fleshed-out world of the children’s imaginations, with playful transitions between the two. The blend of English and French in the text is a clever way to support bilingualism. Rather than repeating the same sentences in both languages, the story works like an early reader whose sentences alternate languages but repeat vocabulary words: “Suddenly they hear a roar. Un grand rugissement!” This allows both bilingual readers and second language learners to engage with the vocabulary in both languages without stopping the flow of the story. The pictures also support comprehension.

Educational content made entertaining. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-328-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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