THE BIRTHDAY LETTERS

Despite some funny touches, Pomerantz's story of the tedious bickering between two kids gets hoist on its own petard. Tom wants to have a birthday party for his dog Louie. He sends out invitations to his friends Lily and Pedro, and to Pedro's sister Emilia. Emilia writes back that she and her gerbils would love to attend. (Actually, Pedro writes, and reads, everything for Emilia, though only after Emilia likes to pretend she is doing him a favor.) Tom says no gerbils; he evidently wants Louie to have the limelight. The two set to quibbling via the mail—Emilia calls Tom the world's meanest potato head (comically rendered by Adinolfi, who draws Tom as a lumpy head full of eyes) and he refuses to relent. Emilia appeals to Tom's better half, but Louie, since Tom is doing the writing, says no to the gerbils. Finally comes the day of the party when Emilia just shows up, with a big steak bone hidden in her dress. This drives Louie crazy. It looks to Tom like Louie can't live without Emilia, so she gets to stay. But since she doesn't have the gerbils in tow, the victory has a hollow ring. And really, who needs more frivolous arguments in their lives? Adinolfi's artwork, though hip and darting and with an eye for any humor that can be wrung from the text, ultimately can't keep the dreary story afloat. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-16335-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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SEE PIP POINT

From the Adventures of Otto series

In his third beginning reader about Otto the robot, Milgrim (See Otto, 2002, etc.) introduces another new friend for Otto, a little mouse named Pip. The simple plot involves a large balloon that Otto kindly shares with Pip after the mouse has a rather funny pointing attack. (Pip seems to be in that I-point-and-I-want-it phase common with one-year-olds.) The big purple balloon is large enough to carry Pip up and away over the clouds, until Pip runs into Zee the bee. (“Oops, there goes Pip.”) Otto flies a plane up to rescue Pip (“Hurry, Otto, Hurry”), but they crash (and splash) in front of some hippos with another big balloon, and the story ends as it begins, with a droll “See Pip point.” Milgrim again succeeds in the difficult challenge of creating a real, funny story with just a few simple words. His illustrations utilize lots of motion and basic geometric shapes with heavy black outlines, all against pastel backgrounds with text set in an extra-large typeface. Emergent readers will like the humor in little Pip’s pointed requests, and more engaging adventures for Otto and Pip will be welcome additions to the limited selection of funny stories for children just beginning to read. (Easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-85116-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Very young gardeners will need more information, but for certain picky eaters, the suggested strategy just might work.

SYLVIA'S SPINACH

A young spinach hater becomes a spinach lover after she has to grow her own in a class garden.

Unable to trade away the seed packet she gets from her teacher for tomatoes, cukes or anything else more palatable, Sylvia reluctantly plants and nurtures a pot of the despised veggie then transplants it outside in early spring. By the end of school, only the plot’s lettuce, radishes and spinach are actually ready to eat (talk about a badly designed class project!)—and Sylvia, once she nerves herself to take a nibble, discovers that the stuff is “not bad.” She brings home an armful and enjoys it from then on in every dish: “And that was the summer Sylvia Spivens said yes to spinach.” Raff uses unlined brushwork to give her simple cartoon illustrations a pleasantly freehand, airy look, and though Pryor skips over the (literally, for spinach) gritty details in both the story and an afterword, she does cover gardening basics in a simple and encouraging way.

Very young gardeners will need more information, but for certain picky eaters, the suggested strategy just might work. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9836615-1-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Readers to Eaters

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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