A point worth pondering, however facile its making.

READ REVIEW

ARE YOU THE PIRATE CAPTAIN?

Arrrgh! A job opening on a jolly pirate ship turns out to be unexpectedly hard to fill.

First Mate Hugh—a ragged, sandy-haired Everylad in Parsons’ cartoon scenes—announces in rhyme to the crew that the docked pirate ship’s “mopped and swabbed and scrubbed” and ready to set sail. But who’ll be captain? Alas, one flamboyantly dressed passer-by’s hook is just a clothes hanger, another with what looks like a torn treasure map is only holding a shopping list, the parrot hoisted by a third dandy is but an umbrella handle, and a fourth’s “glistening silver blade, / two gold teeth and underneath, / a beard tied in a braid!” turns out to be a party costume. But when this last gent sapiently suggests “You’ll need one who / will lead your crew / and not just look the part” and asks who it was who actually organized the ship’s latest spiffing-up, all eyes turn to the erstwhile First Mate…instantly promoted to “Pirate Captain Hugh!” The illustrations appear pretty much phoned-in, as background details are at times left uncolored, and the effort to add diversity by tucking in a pair of darker-skinned figures—one a girl to boot—to the knavish cast comes off as perfunctory at best. Some verses of an original chantey fore and aft of the tale can be heard on the British edition’s online book trailer.

A point worth pondering, however facile its making. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0427-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Returning fans will be happy to see their friends, but this outing's unlikely to win them new ones.

BOA CONSTRUCTOR

From the The Binder of Doom series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of the Binder of Doom series, readers will reconnect with Alexander Bopp, who leads the Super Secret Monster Patrol, a group of mutant children who protect the citizens of their beloved town of Stermont.

His friends Nikki and Rip rejoin him to add new monsters and adventures to their ever growing binder of monsters. As in series opener Brute-Cake (2019), Alexander and his friends attend the local library’s summer program, this time for “maker-camp.” They are assigned a Maker Challenge, in which each camper is to “make a machine that performs a helpful task”; meanwhile, mechanical equipment is being stolen all over Stermont. Unfortunately, the pacing and focus of the book hop all over the place. The titular boa constructor (a two-headed maker-minded snake and the culprit behind the thefts) is but one of many monsters introduced here, appearing more than two-thirds of the way through the story—just after the Machine Share-Time concludes the maker-camp plotline. (Rip’s “most dangerous” invention does come in handy at the climax.) The grayscale illustrations add visuals that will keep early readers engaged despite the erratic storyline; they depict Alexander with dark skin and puffy hair and Nikki and Rip with light skin. Monster trading cards are interleaved with the story.

Returning fans will be happy to see their friends, but this outing's unlikely to win them new ones. (Paranormal adventure. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-31469-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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More sentimental even than Staake’s earlier My Pet Book (2014), but the shiny metaphor is well-intentioned and the nod to...

THE BOOK OF GOLD

A lifelong quest slowly transforms a stolidly incurious Brooklyn lad into an educated, well-traveled geezer.

A dedicated nonreader, young Isaac Gutenberg turns up his nose at the tantalizing facts his book-loving parents dangle before him until a mysterious little old lady tells him about a legendary volume that not only contains the answers to every question ever asked, but when opened “turns to solid gold.” As years pass and Isaac eagerly riffles through every book he finds, his unalloyed greed changes to curiosity: “Why don’t the pyramids have windows?” “Who invented pizza?” “How did the number eight get its name?” After scouring the world’s book shelves, he ultimately comes to realize that the search itself has given him “a long life filled with wonder.” Bronze-toned, retro-style views of New York, India, and other locales are bookended between 1935 and present-day visits to idealized but recognizable versions of the New York Public Library’s Main Reading Room. There (in an act that would in real life get him ejected if not arrested), old Isaac sidles up to an unattended young patron to pass on the glittering legend. Isaac and most of the other figures are white, but Staake diversifies the skin tones of street crowds and readers in the overseas and later scenes.

More sentimental even than Staake’s earlier My Pet Book (2014), but the shiny metaphor is well-intentioned and the nod to libraries is well-taken. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-51077-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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