THE BIRTHDAY CASTLE

From the Fort Builders series , Vol. 1

Kids learn teamwork when they launch a fort-building business.

When 8-year-old Caleb is $10 short for a special edition of a book from his favorite series, he enlists his best friend, Jax, to help him think up ways to earn the money. After the boys have a ball building a box fort, they decide to go into business creating forts for other kids (Jax needs money for a new soccer net). Some of the humor comes in the kids’ aping of adult language they don’t quite get: What’s an “odd job” anyway, and who hasn’t wondered if businesses use “Inc.” in their names just “to sound fancy”? In this way, the humor bolsters instead of competing with the seriousness with which the kids take their operation, empowering kids rather than laughing at them. To handle the business end, they recruit artistic Eddie (who’s saving up for a new brownie pan) to help with signs and marketing, and—when their big job, a box-fort castle for Analise’s birthday, is imperiled by Analise’s changing request—they bring professional Kiara on board. As their tight deadline looms, they adapt to unexpected obstacles and learn how to manage their team. On the cover, Caleb and Jax present white, and Eddie presents black; brown-skinned Kiara is South Asian. A glossary, discussion questions, and STEM activity add further heft; a cast of characters helps transitioning readers keep track.

Positive and upbeat. (Fiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5239-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Aladdin QUIX

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more