A kids’ tale with enjoyably eccentric visuals and a message of civility and forgiveness.

POLYGONSTERS

Bullies meet their very polite match in this quirky new picture book for young readers.

Author and illustrator Helms (Who’s New, 2016, etc.) returns to Ponderville, the setting of her previous children’s books for early readers—a strange, whimsical place where the inhabitants impart messages of friendship. This time around, the happy Ponderville residents are alerted to the imminent arrival of a quartet of “noisy, rowdy, greedy, rough and wild” Polygonsters—depicted as jagged, two-dimensional shapes with cranky faces. Readers are shown what happened the last time the bullying Polygonsters were in town: they trampled the garden, raided the Tea House, and overturned shelves and scattered books at the library. What will Ponderville do this time? One disgruntled character urges his friends to give the Polygonsters a taste of their own medicine (“we will be mean…we will be rude”). His fellow villagers have a different idea. First, they ensure that the Polygonsters will have no access to the places where they wreaked havoc before by simply shutting doors and posting “closed” signs. Then they disarm the invaders with politeness and generosity, greeting them with gifts of books, flowers, and tasty Tea House goodies. This does the trick, and the marauders trundle home with their presents. This book offers a gentle lesson in conflict resolution, although more jaded adults may wonder if the Polygonsters have actually hit upon a lucrative protection racket. Helms’ illustrations mix bright colors and ample white space, and they’re complemented by interesting placements of text that include dialogue in comic-strip–style balloons. The humorous sound effects (“glurp,” “hoo-wah”) invite repetition, and numerous typefaces and the author’s effective use of margins will keep readers’ interest high. Overall, the offbeat world of Helms’ imagination offers pleasant lessons wrapped up in visual and verbal fun.

A kids’ tale with enjoyably eccentric visuals and a message of civility and forgiveness.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9963397-3-5

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Set Free Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2017

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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