As silly a trip to grandma’s house as there ever was.

NINJA RED RIDING HOOD

Schwartz and Santat deliver a powerful karate chop of a picture book to fracture the familiar “Little Red Riding Hood” story.

Hot on the heels of their successful Three Ninja Pigs (2012), this tale sees the hungry wolf enrolling in karate class to add some new skills to his predatory ways. Told in verse that adopts the lilting rhythm of a limerick, the humorous text pairs with digital art that bears the mark of Santat’s animation background. The lupine antihero trains and then goes into the woods, where he encounters Little Red Riding Hood. In a familiar turn, he distracts her on her journey to Grandma’s house with a flower-picking errand—but when he races off to the cottage ahead of her, he finds that Grandma is gone. Lo and behold, when the girl arrives, she does not need a woodcutter to save her because she has trained at ninja school, too. Grandma shows up fresh from practicing tai chi just in time to see Red subdue the wolf and then extract a promise that he will become a vegetarian and take up yoga. An unfortunate mishmash of Eastern religions and traditions emerges from this tale, but the absurdity of the story’s twists and turns helps to mitigate this gaffe.

As silly a trip to grandma’s house as there ever was. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-163548

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A strong series start.

GAME OVER, SUPER RABBIT BOY!

From the Press Start! series , Vol. 1

In a video game, a superpowered rabbit must rescue a singing dog that brings everyone happiness.

In the frame story, a brown-skinned human protagonist plays a video game on a handheld console evocative of the classic Nintendo Gameboy. The bulk of the book relates the game’s storyline: Animal Town is a peaceful place where everyone is delighted by Singing Dog, until the fun-hating King Viking (whose black-mustachioed, pink-skinned looks reference the Super Mario Brothers game series villain, Wario) uses his army of robots to abduct Singing Dog. To save Singing Dog—and fun—the animals send the fastest among them, Simon the Hedgehog, to get Super Rabbit Boy (who gains speed and jumping powers by eating special carrots) to save the day. The chapters take Super Rabbit Boy through video game levels, with classic, video game–style settings and enemies. Throughout the book, when the game’s player loses either a life in the game or the game entirely, the unnamed kid must choose to persevere and not give up. The storylines are differentiated by colorful art styles—cartoonish for the real world, 8-bit pixel-sprite–style for the game. The fast, repetitive plot uses basic, simple sentences and child-friendly objects of interest, such as lakes of lava, for children working on reading independence, while the nerdy in-jokes benefit adults reading with a child.

A strong series start. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03472-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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