MIN MAKES A MACHINE

From the I Like To Read series

This early reader has a resourceful elephant girl at its center.

The story follows the same characters introduced in McCully’s 3, 2, 1, Go! (2015), in which the protagonist builds a catapult. Here Min, an anthropomorphic elephant child, wants to play, but her friends, Bess and Ann (also elephants), are too hot to join her. First Min tries to cool them off with a leafy branch she calls a fan, which she waves with her trunk. This doesn’t work, and so she goes in search of water to fill an emptied, abandoned swimming pool. Undeterred when the only water to be found is at the bottom of a deep well, she coils a long hose around a pipe and secures it with some glue to build the eponymous “machine” that draws water from the well to the conveniently located swimming pool. The story, which is dedicated to “all problem-solving girls,” concludes with the friends joyfully splashing in the pool. Unfortunately, nowhere is the device Min builds identified as an Archimedes screw, which seems like an oversight since even a brief front- or backmatter explanation would enrich the book as a whole. But, the controlled text and lively watercolor illustrations will engage young readers learning to independently decode text and just might inspire some to build their own machines, too.

STEAM-y early-reader fun. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3970-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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