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MAE AND JUNE AND THE WONDER WHEEL

Despite moments of charm, the story and characterization are not compelling enough to save this offering.

Making a new friend is always a good thing—and one who appreciates your canine buddy and joins in your imaginative games with gusto is even better!

June and her dog, Sammy, are inseparable, and when the duo discovers a little girl has moved in across the street, they hope she will meet their three criteria: a new friend must be “FUN! FRIENDLY! FULL OF ADVENTURE!” While Mae does indeed fill the bill, she’s immediately claimed by April, a bossy classmate who excludes June. Fortunately a spinning wheel sent by her grandmother with instructions for play in six sealed envelopes—one to open each Monday—nudges June to engage with others in new and positive ways. Cartoonlike illustrations depict students of varying skin tones who seem to be white, like June, as well as Latino and/or Asian, although Mae is the only African-American child. Disappointingly one of the classmates’ bonding experiences is crazy hair day, an event that is often not inclusive of African-American students. Sure enough, one character’s “crazy” hairstyle is multiple little braids, a popular normal hairstyle for black girls. Readers may also be baffled by the wheel’s complex instructions and disappointed that the story ends before they can discover what surprises are in store in the next five weeks’ envelopes.

Despite moments of charm, the story and characterization are not compelling enough to save this offering. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-63063-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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