THERE’S NOTHING TO DO ON MARS

Following a story arc that’s been popular at least since Ellen Raskin’s Nothing Ever Happens On My Block! (1966), young Davey fails to find anything to relieve his boredom in the rugged Martian landscape—not the fish skeleton, the giant face, the half-buried Mars Rover or even the horde of froggy Martians leaping about in a wild (and, of course, futile) rain dance. Engraved on clay-coated board and then digitally finished, Gall’s dazzling illustrations feature sharply defined, naturally posed figures placed against big, orange, wind-sculpted rocks beneath a greenish sky. Witty details abound, from Davey’s home, which is an old Airstream trailer perched atop a giant rocket motor, to his pop-eyed robot dog, who tends to leak battery fluid when stressed. Ultimately, Davey finds all the adventure he could want when he digs into the crater atop Olympus Mons and unleashes a titanic flood—but then the neighborhood quickly becomes overcrowded with new arrivals, and Davey’s dad suggests moving on to Saturn. There probably won’t be much to do there, either, right? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-16684-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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HOW I BECAME A PIRATE

Thanks to parrot-toting Braidbeard and his gloriously disreputable crew, a lad discovers the ups and downs of a pirate’s life in this rousing mini-epic. His mom and dad busy on another part of the beach, young Jeremy happily joins a band of hook-handed, eye-patched, snaggle-toothed pirates aboard their ship, learning pirate table manners (none), enjoying a game of nautical soccer until a shark eats the ball, then happily retiring without having to brush teeth, or even don pajamas. But then Jeremy learns that pirates don’t get tucked in, or get bedtime stories, and as for good night kisses—Avast! Worse yet, no one offers comfort when a storm hits. So, giving over the pirate’s life, Jeremy shows the crew where to bury its treasure (his backyard), and bids them goodbye. Shannon outfits Braidbeard’s leering, pop-eyed lot in ragged but colorful pirate dress, and gives his young ruffian-in-training a belt and bandanna to match. This isn’t likely to turn pirate wannabees into landlubbers, but it will inspire a chorus of yo-ho-hos. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-201848-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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