SON OF HAPPY

A pro-clown missive that fails to entertain.

A boy decides to follow in his father’s comically large footsteps.

The unnamed white Jewish protagonist clearly doesn’t want to go to his friends’ parties. Mom forces him to, but the visiting entertainment at each of them, a classic red-nosed, white-faced, huge-pantsed clown who makes balloon animals, leaves him cold. When Happy the Clown asks him, “And what kind of animal do you want, young man?” he answers, “That’s okay, Dad.…I’ll pass.” The boy confesses to a friend that he doesn’t like clowns and wishes his father had a “regular” job, like being an accountant, but when the clowning business goes down and Dad goes back to being a lawyer, the boy starts to realize what he’s missing. This small-trim picture book has long blocks of text on most spreads, narrowing its read-aloud audience to patient lapsitters. But absence of controlled vocabulary keeps it off the early-reader shelf, nor is it an early chapter book. Some similarly uncategorizable stories can be made to work, but unfortunately this one suffers from an emotionally flat story with little to no tension or intrigue to keep readers of any level engaged. The loose gray and colored-pencil illustrations tonally match the story but don’t add excitement or depth to the pages.

(This book releases first as a digital edition, with print release currently scheduled for Aug. 4, 2020.)

A pro-clown missive that fails to entertain. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-178-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

Close Quickview