CHEECH THE SCHOOL BUS DRIVER

Celebrity-penned picture books don’t generally inspire much enthusiasm among young listeners. Although the “authors” may be well known to adults, children care more about content. And in many cases, talent in one field doesn’t necessarily imply ability in another. There are exceptions, of course, but unfortunately this rambling first-person narrative won’t be one of them. Obviously intended to cash in on both the author’s comedy routines and the popularity of books that build self-esteem and celebrate diversity, the overly long text fails to entertain or enlighten. The plot is predictable: A mariachi band made up of school children enters a Battle of the Bands, flirts with changing their presentation to resemble the competing rock bands but ultimately decides to stick to their own style. They win, of course. The cartoon-style illustrations are appealing though somewhat static. Outlandish outfits and exaggerated expressions add humor, but the pictures aren’t engaging enough to make up for the forgettable text. Well meant, perhaps, but sadly not “groovanova.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-113201-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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VIOLET THE PILOT

Violet Van Winkle is an inventor with a flair for air. Her father manages a junkyard and while other girls play with dolls and tea sets, Violet is busy tinkering with monkey wrenches and needle-nosed pliers building elaborate contraptions, especially flying machines, like her Bicycopter, Pogo Plane and Wing-a-ma-jig. Kids at school make fun of her, but Violet hopes that if she wins an air-show competition with her special plane, The Hornet, they’ll be nice to her. On show day, she carefully calculates her flying time but diverts from her course to rescue a troop of Boy Scouts who have fallen into a river and drops them (literally) at the hospital. Sadly, her heroism makes her too late to enter the air show but her misery evaporates when the mayor presents her with a medal of valor. The comical cover is a grabber: Violet is piloting a homemade plane wearing a helmet and goggles and blowing bubble gum with Orville, her dog’s ears streaming in the wind like her scarf. The cartoon illustrations of watercolor, acrylic and pencil soar with inventive details and angles, e.g. close-up of Violet’s face in midair with bugs on her teeth. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3125-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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