Anemic selections of basic facts paired to a visual trick that is only fitfully exploited with imagination.


From the Shine-a-Light series

A “whistle-stop” tour of natural, historical, and cultural marvels, from Denali to the Everglades, the Golden Gate Bridge to Mardi Gras.

The 14 entries—arranged in no particular order and never located on a map—are kitted out with a gimmick: alternating versos are solid black with white outlined figures, so that holding the colored illustrations on the rectos up to a light allows the figures to shine through and, ideally at least, complete a composition. This works nicely when, for instance, a view of the White House’s exterior on the colored side is matched to a (simplified) schematic of the rooms inside, but too often the additions are animals or groups of tourists in the foregrounds, offering neither insight nor much of a visual surprise. Also, whenever pages are held up, the simple descriptive commentary is hard to read as the text on the other side, nearly all of which is placed in the same general area, shows through in reverse. Both Johnson and, in the co-published Secrets of Our Earth, Wesley Robins vary the visible skin tones of their otherwise generic human figures.

Anemic selections of basic facts paired to a visual trick that is only fitfully exploited with imagination. (Informational novelty. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61067-543-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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


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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When Bibi, her first and favorite babysitter, moves away, it takes all of August for 8-year-old Eleanor to get beyond her sense of loss and get used to a new caretaker. Her parents grieve, too; her mother even takes some time off work. But, as is inevitable in a two-income family, eventually a new sitter appears. Natalie is sensible and understanding. They find new activities to do together, including setting up a lemonade stand outside Eleanor’s Brooklyn apartment building, waiting for Val, the mail carrier, and taking pictures of flowers with Natalie’s camera. Gradually Eleanor adjusts, September comes, her new teacher writes a welcoming letter, her best friend returns from summer vacation and third grade starts smoothly. Best of all, Val brings a loving letter from Bibi in Florida. While the story is relatively lengthy, each chapter is a self-contained episode, written simply and presented in short lines, accessible to those still struggling with the printed word. Cordell’s gray-scale line drawings reflect the action and help break up the text on almost every page. This first novel is a promising debut. Eleanor’s concerns, not only about her babysitter, but also about playmates, friends and a new school year will be familiar to readers, who will look forward to hearing more about her life. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8424-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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