THE JOURNEY OF OLIVER K. WOODMAN

An epistolary picture book whimsically teaches geography, encouraging readers to follow the peregrinations of a life-sized wooden figure. When Tameka invites her Uncle Ray, a woodworker, to visit her in California, he responds that he can’t—but he will send a wooden doll he has fashioned in his stead. Oliver is duly propped up by the side of the road to hitch a ride (“California or bust,” reads his placard), a note in his backpack requesting that his conveyers send postcards back to his friend Ray. What follows is a genial romp that moves back and forth among Oliver, Ray, and Tameka, as Oliver makes his way across the country. The landscape orientation enhances sweeping full-bleed spreads; wordless double-paged openings feature Oliver against the changing American geography and alternate with postcards and letters written by his helpers to inform Ray of his progress. Cepeda’s (Why Heaven Is Far Away, 2002, etc.) cheerily energetic oils vary perspective and angle with abandon, giving the story a wonderful movement. Rendered over an acrylic underpainting; the bits of color that show through the oil coat also lend individual spreads terrific energy. The genius of the interaction between illustration and Pattison’s (The Wayfinder, not reviewed) deadpan postcard text is that the tension regarding Oliver—is he just a giant doll or is he “real”—is never really resolved. Pictured in Reno with a trio of gray-haired sisters from Kokomo, Oliver stands in the background by the craps table, holding up one wooden finger and looking on expressionlessly. The letter reads, “Mr. Oliver’s advice was very helpful. We won $5,000!” Who knows? Readers, like Tameka and those who encounter Oliver on his way, will be happy to choose to believe. Endpapers feature bright, complementary maps of the US: the front is empty, while the back is marked by dotted lines showing Oliver’s journey. All geography lessons should be this much fun. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-202329-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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