MATH FOR ALL SEASONS

MIND-STRETCHING MATH RIDDLES

Although these math riddles can be fun, there is a major discrepancy between the character of the book and the age group it is intended for. Tang’s versified math problems encourage readers to tackle addition and subtraction questions in their head as well as on the page. With conceptual thinking involved, it is reasonable to peg this for six- to ten-year-olds, despite the ultimate simplicity of the adding and subtracting. Readers have to learn to group objects in counterintuitive ways—up and down, say, rather than left to right, or fill in blanks and then subtract—and the solutions at the end of the book explain any problems that have been too elusive or confounding. But it is difficult to see beyond these single-case scenarios; the groupings of objects used by Tang are too neat to be applied to the real world, with all its asymmetries. More damaging are the childish illustrations—cutesy, singing gingerbread men, hyper-cuddly bunnies—and the uninspired verse: “Canals and dikes and windmills, too, / Grassy fields and skies of blue. / In Holland spring’s the time of year / For pretty flowers far and near.” Difficult to imagine ten-year-olds enamored of that. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-21042-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!

ROT, THE BRAVEST IN THE WORLD!

A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS?

Not only does Jenkins (Life on Earth, 2002, etc.) again display a genius for creating paper-collage wildlife portraits with astonishingly realistic skin, fur, and feathers, but here on alternate spreads he zooms in for equally lifelike close-ups of ears, eyes, noses, mouths, feet, and tails. Five examples of each organ thrusting in from beyond the pages’ edges for each “What do you do” question precede spreads in which the point of view pulls back to show the whole animal, with a short accompanying caption. Visual surprises abound: a field cricket’s ears are actually on its legs; a horned lizard can (and does, here) squirt blood from its eyes as a defense mechanism; in an ingenious use of page design, a five-lined skink’s breakable tail enters and leaves the center gutter at different points. Capped by a systematic appendix furnishing more, and often arresting, details—“A humpback whale can be 50 feet long and weigh a ton per foot”—this array of wide eyes and open mouths will definitely have viewers responding with wide eyes and open mouths of their own. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 24, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-25628-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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