Satisfactory—but far from transcendent.

THE BIG RACE

Participation awards are for people who try.

And Aardvark wants to try! On the day of the big race, she sets out to compete in a race that traditionally features the, “fastest, biggest and strongest” animals in town: Cheetah, Buffalo, and Crocodile. Although the trio is skeptically hostile, Aardvark vows that she’ll enter and that she’ll have fun competing. Over a series of obstacles that see the race’s leader change multiple times, Aardvark stays in last place until the final minutes of the race. While the final result may be a bit of a surprise for some readers, the message of inclusion creates a heartwarming end. Barrow’s story is amusing but far from groundbreaking. The colorfully mottled illustrations are bright and inviting, but they may cause the odd head-scratch from astute readers: Why is crocodile in third place during the swimming portion of the race? How did everyone get a hot air balloon except Aardvark? She registered, too. And how, after plummeting from high in the sky, does Aardvark survive when her helium-balloon conveyance pops?? These quirks aside, the book is perfectly adequate. Aardvark makes a comical contrast to the powerful animals, with her stubby legs, elongated snout, and expressively droopy ears.

Satisfactory—but far from transcendent. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61067-880-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE

When Bibi, her first and favorite babysitter, moves away, it takes all of August for 8-year-old Eleanor to get beyond her sense of loss and get used to a new caretaker. Her parents grieve, too; her mother even takes some time off work. But, as is inevitable in a two-income family, eventually a new sitter appears. Natalie is sensible and understanding. They find new activities to do together, including setting up a lemonade stand outside Eleanor’s Brooklyn apartment building, waiting for Val, the mail carrier, and taking pictures of flowers with Natalie’s camera. Gradually Eleanor adjusts, September comes, her new teacher writes a welcoming letter, her best friend returns from summer vacation and third grade starts smoothly. Best of all, Val brings a loving letter from Bibi in Florida. While the story is relatively lengthy, each chapter is a self-contained episode, written simply and presented in short lines, accessible to those still struggling with the printed word. Cordell’s gray-scale line drawings reflect the action and help break up the text on almost every page. This first novel is a promising debut. Eleanor’s concerns, not only about her babysitter, but also about playmates, friends and a new school year will be familiar to readers, who will look forward to hearing more about her life. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8424-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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