A one-trick pony unlikely to tempt readers into a second ride.

SECRETS OF WINTER

A SHINE-A-LIGHT BOOK

Holding alternate pages up to a light reveals animals hiding, sleeping, or foraging through a winter night.

Leading questions—“Whoosh! What has landed in the tree?”—caption painted views of fallen leaves, snow-covered evergreen branches, birch catkins, berries on leafless branches, and unmarked expanses of snow. These conceal either snowflakes or birds, snails, and other creatures that, being rendered on the undersides of each recto as white figures on solid-black backgrounds, become visible when held up to the light. As several of the animals are peeking out on the colored sides too, there isn’t always much guesswork involved. Possibly in service to the gimmick, the colors overall look rather wan, both here and in the co-published On the Construction Site, which features an unexciting bevy of stylized heavy-duty vehicles digging holes or carting such visually stimulating materials as rocks and cement. In both, the explanatory notes are couched in simple, declarative sentences with additional facts supplied in a closing spread. But the information is standard-issue, the hidden elements aren’t drawn to scale (a dormant bumblebee on the first spread of Winter is big enough to frighten unwary tots), and the art seems drab next to such other takes on these ever popular topics as Kate Messner and Christopher Silas’ Over and Under the Snow (2011) and Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock’s Construction (2014).

A one-trick pony unlikely to tempt readers into a second ride. (Informational novelty picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78240-277-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!

ROT, THE BRAVEST IN THE WORLD!

A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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THEY ALL SAW A CAT

Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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