Positive and upbeat.

READ REVIEW

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

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Cool beans indeed.

THE COOL BEAN

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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