A simple story about a fortuitous friendship

EBENEZER HAS A WORD FOR EVERYTHING

Words are precious to Ebenezer, but none more than friendship.

Ebenezer collects words: “linguini,” “disappointment,” “possibility,” “catastrophe.” Words make him giddy but lonely. Other people just don’t understand him. When his family suggests ordinary names like Walter or Skipper for Ebenezer to name his goldfish, he instead decides on Arty, short for Carassius auratus. He considers his sister’s insistence on pink “exhausting.” When his classmates are not excited by words such as “parka” or “clamor,” Ebenezer is despondent. At his favorite library, he meets Fitzgerald, who is brimming over with a head full of stories but who lacks the words to tell them. Together, they form the ideal friendship. Lighthearted illustrations, primarily green, gray, and orange, infuse a note of cartoon humor to this slight story and provide some variety in the skin tones of the children in Ebenezer’s classroom; Ebenezer presents white, and Fitzgerald has brown skin. A few children lack mouths—including Fitzgerald at some points—which seems a bit off-putting at times. Additionally, at a time when the children’s-book industry needs affirming tales for children of color, it seems odd that Fitzgerald is the one in need of words, perhaps hinting at a learning disability. On the other hand, Ebenezer and Fitzgerald complement one another’s abilities. A glossary at the back offers a good learning opportunity for young logophiles.

A simple story about a fortuitous friendship . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56145-848-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

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THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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