As Horse says, “turn off the frown. Start getting down!” Beginning readers—get up, dance, and read! (Early reader. 4-8)

READ REVIEW

DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!

From the I Like To Read series

From the opening panels it is clear that this is not a quiet reading book.

Much to Buggy’s chagrin, Horse loves to dance! The rubber-legged horse hops, leaps, twists, break-dances, and pirouettes across the pages. There’s even a John Travolta pose—all before the title page. But, hearing no music, Buggy insists, “You are just moving around.” In a sweet twist, Horse sympathetically declares, “I am not happy. Because you are not happy.” The problem is resolved with humor and compassion. Horse supplies music they can both hear. Then they both dance. Long uses fewer than 50 different words, many repeatedly, to tell this engaging story. “Dance,” “can,” and “can’t” are on almost every spread, ensuring new readers’ success. Hints to the meanings of more-challenging words are included in the pictures. The text consists entirely of Horse and Buggy’s conversation. Who is speaking is made clear by placing their simple declarative sentences in blocks of white with an arrow pointing at the speaker. The friends are cartoonish characters drawn in shades of gray with expressive round eyes; Horse’s are lashless, while Buggy’s sport three long lashes apiece, suggesting gender. These uncluttered and somewhat silly illustrations against solid blocks of teal, purple, orange, and green match the text perfectly.

As Horse says, “turn off the frown. Start getting down!” Beginning readers—get up, dance, and read! (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3859-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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