Aimed squarely at small boys, this is action, adventure and imagination with a positive message.

An inventive reuser builds a cleaning robot that threatens to eat his town.

Awesome Dawson repurposes everything. From his earliest childhood, he has made new things from old, including, most importantly, his best friend, Mooey. Together, boy and talking cow-head (Dawson likes to switch Mooey’s bodies around) save the town from the young inventor’s overachieving vacuum cleaner; on the final pages, they’re poised to save humanity from space invaders. The inspiration for this adventure is revealed in mostly sepia-toned endpapers showing a sea of household junk and a broken sign that reads MacGyver St. But the real appeal comes from Gall’s intriguing illustrations. These digitally colored prints made from engravings on an ink-covered clay board are crowded with things—robots, toys, Mooey’s ever-changing body, even furniture and airplanes—made out of discarded materials. Everything is carefully labeled. Old surfboards, plastic bottles, lobster claws and even cat food find new uses. Though his workshop is jumbled, tools (also carefully labeled) hang neatly on a pegboard. The text appears in boxes and speech bubbles, as in a graphic novel or comic strip. Even more than his monster cleaner, Dawson’s final constructions—a new car for his parents, yet another body for Mooey and an alien-chasing airplane—will remind readers of the author’s Dinotrux (2009).

Aimed squarely at small boys, this is action, adventure and imagination with a positive message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-21330-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013


A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014


A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories.

What does Annie want to be?

As career day approaches, Annie wants to keep her job choice secret until her family sees her presentation at school. Readers will figure it out, however, through the title and clues Tadgell incorporates into the illustrations. Family members make guesses about her ambitions that are tied to their own passions, although her brother watches as she completes her costume in a bedroom with a Mae Jemison poster, starry décor, and a telescope. There’s a celebratory mood at the culminating presentation, where Annie says she wants to “soar high through the air” like her basketball-playing mother, “explore faraway places” like her hiker dad, and “be brave and bold” like her baker grandmother (this feels forced, but oven mitts are part of her astronaut costume) so “the whole world will hear my exciting stories” like her reporter grandfather. Annie jumps off a chair to “BLAST OFF” in a small illustration superimposed on a larger picture depicting her floating in space with a reddish ground below. It’s unclear if Annie imagines this scene or if it’s her future-self exploring Mars, but either scenario fits the aspirational story. Backmatter provides further reading suggestions and information about the moon and four women astronauts, one of whom is Jemison. Annie and her family are all black.

A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88448-523-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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