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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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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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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