THE PLAN FOR THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE

A STEM ENGINEERING STORY

An often fun read-aloud that could use a spoonful of science.

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A group of children create gingerbread houses in Pattison’s picture book, illustrated by Joven.

When teacher Miss Sheridan announces a gingerbread-house-making contest, her young students race into action to create an entry for the class. At first, they burn the cookies, spread icing too thin, construct uneven walls, and place the roof askew. They also don’t put enough gumdrops on the structure, which eventually caves in. However, with a whole lot more icing—“We glue and we glue and we glue and we glue”—and swift chiseling, they manage to complete the house, which wins the grand prize. Joven’s playful, humorous color illustrations feature construction equipment and children with various skin tones, hairstyles, and eye colors. Pattison’s love of rhyming and repetition is on full display: “This is the roof, that we drop right on top….And it’s nibbled and pinched, and that simply must stop!” However, the book’s subtitle, “a STEM engineering story,” suggests that it will include math or science—in backmatter, at least—yet none accompanies the story; a spread titled “Lessons we’ve learned” reads like an afterthought. Despite these hiccups, Pattison’s text begs to be read aloud, and Joven’s spreads offer dynamic visuals that give readers’ eyes many places to travel on the page.

An often fun read-aloud that could use a spoonful of science.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62-944157-3

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Mims House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

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

HOME

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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