PALAZZO INVERSO

An homage to M.C. Escher’s head-tilting, mind-reeling artwork, this disorienting book asks children to stretch their imaginations and travel on a circuitous journey outside traditional, comfortable reading experiences. Mauk, an architect’s apprentice, wakes up in an upside-down world, and readers follow him as he makes a baffling commute to work. They also have a difficult trip ahead of them, as navigating the book is an arduous task. Children must use arrows to know where and how to continue reading the text, all while ignoring words in lighter lettering that run backward along the tops of pages. At the back of the book, they must flip it upside down to continue reading. While the altered perspective endows the illustrations with sudden clarity and richer meaning, readers will remain only mildly enthralled. Drab, blurry monochromatic color and flat, soulless imagery lack Escher’s exhilarating, engaging precision. When readers finally reach the ending, they realize it actually lies at the very beginning, on the very first page, using the very words that started Mauk’s whole adventure. Whoa! Few children will persevere through this exhausting journey. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-23999-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound.

HOW TO CATCH A GINGERBREAD MAN

From the How To Catch… series

The titular cookie runs off the page at a bookstore storytime, pursued by young listeners and literary characters.

Following on 13 previous How To Catch… escapades, Wallace supplies sometimes-tortured doggerel and Elkerton, a set of helter-skelter cartoon scenes. Here the insouciant narrator scampers through aisles, avoiding a series of elaborate snares set by the racially diverse young storytime audience with help from some classic figures: “Alice and her mad-hat friends, / as a gift for my unbirthday, / helped guide me through the walls of shelves— / now I’m bound to find my way.” The literary helpers don’t look like their conventional or Disney counterparts in the illustrations, but all are clearly identified by at least a broad hint or visual cue, like the unnamed “wizard” who swoops in on a broom to knock over a tower labeled “Frogwarts.” Along with playing a bit fast and loose with details (“Perhaps the boy with the magic beans / saved me with his cow…”) the author discards his original’s lip-smacking climax to have the errant snack circling back at last to his book for a comfier sort of happily-ever-after.

A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0935-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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