Cute concept; uneven execution.


Some peripatetic gingerbread men make a believer of a skeptical grade schooler.

Mrs. Gray’s class has been listening to variations on “The Gingerbread Man” all week in preparation for a cooking activity. Marshall knows it’s all hooey—cookies can’t run. The kids mix, cut and decorate before Mrs. Gray “locks” the gingerbread men in the oven…but when the oven is opened, the cookies have vanished. A series of rhymed clues takes the kids around the school in pursuit. Though initially Marshall suspects that Mrs. Gray has cooked up a literacy exercise to get between the kids and their cookies, a stray raisin makes him wonder—and then he notices hundreds of gingerbread footprints on the floor of the gym. Those “G-men” must be napping in the doll corner after all that running! Durand has created an attractive protagonist in Marshall; his skepticism is exactly age-appropriate, as is his pride in the way he “rocks” the dough. Small’s loose, line-and-watercolor cartoons feature a freckled, redheaded Caucasian boy with expressive eyebrows. (Mrs. Gray is also white, but her classroom is multiethnic.) There’s something a little half-baked about the story, though; although the buildup to the discovery of the cookies is effective, the denouement sags: Just what is going to happen to all these apparently sentient cookies? A closing vignette showing Marshall about to bite his cookie’s head off is downright disquieting.

Cute concept; uneven execution. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-525-42835-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and...


Obviously inspired by "The Little Red Hen," this goes beyond the foundation tale's basic moral about work ethic to explore problem solving, teamwork and doing one’s best.

Nighttime at school brings the Little Red Pen out of the drawer to correct papers, usually aided by other common school supplies. But not this time. Too afraid of being broken, worn out, dull, lost or, worst of all, put in the “Pit of No Return” (aka trash), they hide in the drawer despite the Little Red Pen’s insistence that the world will end if the papers do not get corrected. But even with her drive she cannot do it all herself—her efforts send her to the Pit. It takes the ingenuity and cooperation of every desk supply to accomplish her rescue and to get all the papers graded, thereby saving the world. The authors work in lots of clever wordplay that will appeal to adult readers, as will the spicy character of Chincheta, the Mexican pushpin. Stevens’ delightfully expressive desk supplies were created with paint, ink and plenty of real school supplies. Without a doubt, she has captured their true personalities: the buck-toothed stapler, bespectacled scissors and rather empty-headed eraser.

Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and students may take a second glance at that innocuous-looking red pen on the teacher’s desk. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-15-206432-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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