This thoughtful and entertaining portrait offers a model for reading critically that will bear fruit as readers grow.

READ REVIEW

A BOY CALLED DICKENS

Metafictive techniques and atmospheric graphite, ink and acrylic compositions effectively pull readers into the life and soul of 12-year-old Charles Dickens.

As in Hendrix and Hopkinson’s Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek (2008), the narrator addresses the audience directly, inviting viewers to search for the boy in the London fog, experience his long day in the vermin-infested shoe-polish factory and consider the effects of dysfunctional parenting on a youth. Both accessible and rich in simile and metaphor, this fictionalized biography concerns the budding novelist’s coming of age, as he ekes out a living (during his family’s stint in debtors’ prison) and pursues his dream. Page designs vary, some combining four distinct layers: a Leonardo-inspired composition that creates convincing depth in the hazy distance; a realistic cityscape bathed in grays and browns; close-up, highly-focused caricatures, rendered in a brighter palette; and swirling, blue, otherworldly figments of the boy’s imagination. He is often “surrounded by…ladies with shattered hopes; a miserly old man; a young gentleman with great expectations….” David Copperfield appears in an imagined encounter relayed to Dickens’ friend, Fagin. The final scene portrays the celebrated adult author, after which Hopkinson reflects on Dickens’ difficulty in discussing his adolescence and “how much we all might lose when a child’s dreams don’t come true.”  

This thoughtful and entertaining portrait offers a model for reading critically that will bear fruit as readers grow. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86732-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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