An intriguing children’s story about a tiny bird earning his wings.


Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight

Laws against flying cannot quell a young bird’s desire to soar in Anderson’s debut children’s book.

None of the birds of Tree City know how to fly, so the only way they can reach their nests is by climbing a vast, spiral staircase. Charlie Sparrow’s father, a second-generation repairman, keeps those stairs in working order. One morning, young Charlie accompanies his father on a job and takes a tumble off a high branch. At that moment, something stirs within him, and he calmly spreads his wings floats to the ground. The experience leaves Charlie exhilarated and eager to try again, but his parents are horrified. They consult Dr. Nightingale, who diagnoses Charlie with “Leaping Syndrome,” described as “an extreme and dangerous urge to leap off things.” Just before Charlie is about to undergo the doctor’s treatment—a plucking procedure—he jumps out the window and again safely floats to the ground. Soon a mysterious bird in a long coat and fedora coaxes him into an old tree (which may raise parents’ eyebrows). He reveals himself to be Dr. Nightingale’s brother, but he holds an opposing view of Leaping Syndrome and encourages birds to follow their illicit muse. He introduces Charlie to a circle of other Leapers who engage in clandestine group therapy. Later, in the Leaping Cavern, Charlie’s unique floating ability puts him in the spotlight. Ultimately, Dr. Nightingale’s brother is put on trial, but the story ends on an uplifting note, with Charlie becoming the society’s designated flying instructor. Although children may applaud the group’s fortitude and Charlie’s perseverance, they may wonder why a society of birds doesn’t know how to fly, or why the birds have their wings regularly clipped. However, the story is nicely descriptive and its pace never falters. Anderson has also created fun, original and quirky characters, and children will likely enjoy their alliterative names, such as Wendy Warbler, Fanny Finch and Ronny Raven. The author’s accompanying pencil sketches are simplistic, but representational and expressive.

An intriguing children’s story about a tiny bird earning his wings.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012


Page Count: 62

Publisher: Underdog Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2013

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Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come.


From the Little Blue Truck series

Little Blue Truck and his pal Toad meet friends old and new on a springtime drive through the country.

This lift-the-flap, interactive entry in the popular Little Blue Truck series lacks the narrative strength and valuable life lessons of the original Little Blue Truck (2008) and its sequel, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way (2009). Both of those books, published for preschoolers rather than toddlers, featured rich storylines, dramatic, kinetic illustrations, and simple but valuable life lessons—the folly of taking oneself too seriously, the importance of friends, and the virtue of taking turns, for example. At about half the length and with half as much text as the aforementioned titles, this volume is a much quicker read. Less a story than a vernal celebration, the book depicts a bucolic drive through farmland and encounters with various animals and their young along the way. Beautifully rendered two-page tableaux teem with butterflies, blossoms, and vibrant pastel, springtime colors. Little Blue greets a sheep standing in the door of a barn: “Yoo-hoo, Sheep! / Beep-beep! / What’s new?” Folding back the durable, card-stock flap reveals the barn’s interior and an adorable set of twin lambs. Encounters with a duck and nine ducklings, a cow with a calf, a pig with 10 (!) piglets, a family of bunnies, and a chicken with a freshly hatched chick provide ample opportunity for counting and vocabulary work.

Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-93809-0

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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