THE BIRTHDAY ABC

The text of this alphabet book makes a nice birthday gift, but the wrappings—the exquisitely crafted illustrations—are even better. Twenty-six dandily dressed critters (there is no animal for X, but the Lion has a scion) proclaim birthday greetings to lucky readers. The accompanying verses by Metaxas sometimes clank and rattle, but almost always play second fiddle to the drawings. ``O is for Orangutan,/who from a limb is seen to hang'' is awkward, but the ape's picture is worth its weight in words. Raglin (Pecos Bill, Picture Book Studio, 1991) shows a British influence: his impish humor and unstuffy formality are reminiscent of Tenniel or Graeme Base, though he does not possess the dynamism found in the latter's popular works. Readers with a knack for history can entertain themselves by trying to figure out the historical periods of the animals' elegant costumes. This bunch is a treat to behold. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-671-88306-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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SKELETON HICCUPS

Who hasn’t shared the aggravation of a whole day’s worth of bone-rattling hiccups? Poor Skeleton wakes up with a deadly case that he can’t shake, and it’s up to his friend Ghost to think of something to scare them away. Cuyler (Stop, Drop, and Roll, 2001, etc.) cleverly brings readers through the ups and downs of Skeleton’s day, from shower to ball-playing. Home folk remedies (holding his breath, eating sugar) don’t seem to work, but Ghost applies a new perspective startling enough to unhinge listeners and Skeleton alike. While the concept is clever, it’s Schindler’s (How Santa Lost His Job, 2001, etc.) paintings, done with gouache, ink, and watercolor, that carry the day, showing Skeleton’s own unique problems—water pours out of his hollow eyes when he drinks it upside down, his teeth spin out of his head when he brushes them—that make a joke of the circumstances. Oversized spreads open the scene to read-aloud audiences, but hold intimate details for sharp eyes—monster slippers, sugar streaming through the hollow body. For all the hiccupping, this outing has a quiet feel not up to the standards of some of Cuyler’s earlier books, but the right audience will enjoy its fun. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84770-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Fun, fun, fun all through the town!

THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH

This book’s gonna werk, werk, werk all through Pride Month and beyond.

Drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess rewrites “The Wheels on the Bus” to create a fun, movement-filled, family-friendly celebration of drag. The text opens with the titular verse to establish the familiar song’s formulaic pattern: “The hips on the drag queen go SWISH, SWISH, SWISH… / ALL THROUGH THE TOWN!” Along the way, more and more drag queens join in the celebration. The unnamed queens proudly display a range of skin tones, sizes, and body modifications to create a diverse cast of realistic characters that could easily be spotted at a Pride event or on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The palette of both costumes and backgrounds is appropriately psychedelic, and there are plenty of jewels going “BLING, BLING, BLING.” Don’t tell the queens, but the flow is the book’s real star, because it encourages natural kinetic participation that will have groups of young readers giggling and miming along with the story. Libraries and bookshops hosting drag-queen storytimes will find this a popular choice, and those celebrating LGBTQ+ heritage will also find this a useful book for the pre-K crowd. Curious children unfamiliar with a drag queen may require a brief explanation, but the spectacle stands up just fine on its own platforms.

Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6765-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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