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

CLAYMATES

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 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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