CAVEKID BIRTHDAY

Breisacher and Garrigue explore the timeless fun of gift exchange.

Neighbors Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends who do everything together. The pair shares interests in pet racing, stone tossing, painting on walls—a joy shared by all children since the very beginning of time—as well as their birthday. As it approaches, Cavegirl becomes frantic to make the perfect gift, but a mishap involving her pet bear sends her to Caveman’s Collectibles to pick out the perfect present. Since money has yet to be invented, Cavegirl trades her tools for a box. Caveboy also considers the perfect gift before trading his precious rocks for…a box. The two best friends make the best of their gifts, but eventually it’s back to Caveman’s Collectibles for another trade. In exchange for their things, they do some gnarly interior decorating for Caveman—money may not have been invented yet, but paint, ladders, and balloons are readily available! The scratchy line-and-color illustrations share an aesthetic with The Flintstones, with the uniformly pale-skinned characters sporting hide clothing and bone accessories. The message will resonate with generations of readers—the simplicity of a box combined with imagination crosses time and gender. However, the protagonists’ binary names are not inclusive of gender fluidity. The faux primitive grammar (“Me like….Trade good”) gives character to the dialogue but may also confuse emerging readers.

Book sweet . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58089-876-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Kid-friendly dark humor.

POULTRYGEIST

The chicken crosses the road…and arrives on the other side as a ghost.

The action kicks off before the title page when the chicken crossing the road winds up a splatter of feathers against the grille of a tractor trailer. When its ghost rises from the squished remains, it meets a host of other animal ghosts that encourage the new poultrygeist to start getting scary. They probably didn’t realize, however, that they’d be the ones to be frightened. Geron’s text is full of punny lines like “It’s time to get foul, fowl!” and “Ghosts of a feather haunt together!” Midway through, the poultrygeist turns to readers to make sure they’re not too scared. This is a nice touch, maintaining engagement while also giving more timid readers time to take a beat. Oswald’s illustrations display masterful use of color, with bright, ghostly animals against a dark, often all-black background, the dialogue shown in colors that correspond to the speakers. These ghosts do become scary but not enough to completely terrorize readers. Oswald’s skill is seen in full effect, as readers witness only the animal ghosts’ reactions to the poultrygeist’s scariest face, building suspense for the full reveal. This book is just right for kids easing into the slightly scary and macabre but who still want a safe and fun read.

Kid-friendly dark humor. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1050-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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