From the Fort Builders series , Vol. 1

Positive and upbeat.

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 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020


The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017


Too idealistic by half.

A group of kids take a troll to task.

A troll named Tom lives in Lola’s neighborhood. In Rodriguez’s delicate artwork, he’s tall and bizarre looking, with party hats for ears and oven mitts over his hands, and as kids walk past, he holds up signs plastered with insulting messages tailored to what he sees. No one likes the troll, but his comments cut. Most try to avoid Tom, but a light-skinned girl named Lola takes the messages to heart and slowly changes herself in an attempt to avoid criticism. After Lola has a heartfelt conversation with a bookstore owner about how bullies are the ones who are really afraid, she and the other kids stand up to the troll, revealed to be a short, light-skinned boy who’s “new to this neighborhood” and “just wanted…attention.” Many pages are crammed full of text, and one central metaphor feels overexplained as Lola describes herself as “tall on the inside,” which is apparently “what counts.” This story attempts to deliver an old-fashioned message about bullying through the modern concept of an internet troll, but neither element works especially well in this earnest text that naïvely imagines that all conflicts can be resolved through conversation and that trolls can be scared away through honesty and confidence.

Too idealistic by half. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780593527634

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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