This fish tail is amusing, though it won’t help kids who find themselves in Bertie’s shoes.

CODZILLA

A big cod’s struggles with bullying come to an end when he saves the school from a shark.

Bertie is one huge cod, towering over every other student in his school. Because they fear him and his strength, they side with Maxwell in his bullying of Bertie, chiming in when Maxwell asks, “Hey guys, what’s this beast’s name again?” “CODZILLA!” Bertie might be a bit clumsy, but he is a gentle cod who loves to read about sharks in the school library. But even mild-mannered fish can get pushed too far, and when running, hiding, and playing dead don’t alleviate the bullying, Bertie takes care of Maxwell by eating him…and all the witnesses. Their racket drives Bertie to sneeze them out again, but the bullying gets worse until the day Bertie turns hero by putting all his shark knowledge (and his huge stomach capacity) to good use. While it’s refreshing to see the reversal of size stereotypes, with a small bully and a large target, it’s unfortunate that the bullying only ends when Bertie becomes useful. The fish in Chapman’s Photoshop illustrations are shaped like bullets with various colored and shaped fins and remarkably expressive, rather goofy faces. All “walk” upright on their fins, and the atmosphere is extremely dry despite the presence of watery plants and the occasional bubble. Don’t miss the titles of the library books.

This fish tail is amusing, though it won’t help kids who find themselves in Bertie’s shoes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-257067-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

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THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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