Haphazard stabs at describing at least parts of the creative process—more illuminating perhaps for the artist’s students...


A gifted finder of ideas explains how to track the tricky, elusive things down.

Readers should be warned to hold on to their hats, because although it’s presented as one long, breathless mix of hand-lettered expostulations and dashed-off jabs, squiggles, and swipes of blue, red, and yellow paint, Tullet’s monologue veers about like an unknotted balloon. Dispensing with a title page, he opens abruptly by marveling at the “OH!” moment when an idea hits, then rhetorically asking what an idea might be. He goes on to describe hunting for one as an arduous, even “boring” task. Observing that happening upon an idea is “a little like finding a seed” that grows, he suddenly switches his conceit to exclaim that ideas will come in a “messy and bubbly” swarm—but must be sifted to find the “good” ones, which “always” contain “a seed of madness.” Rather than pausing to unpack that vague if fine-sounding phrase, he rushes on to claim (with one minor typo) confusingly that “those seeds” (which ones?) are hidden everywhere but can be found, cultivated, absorbed in the mind, and ultimately combined…to make an idea. (Weren’t we there already?) Finally, following the affirmation that the effort is worthwhile, whether “just for the fun of it” or “to change the world,” he closes with the inspirational assurance that those who seek will find. Well, that part at least is clear enough.

Haphazard stabs at describing at least parts of the creative process—more illuminating perhaps for the artist’s students than the rest of his audience. (Picture book. 8-10, adult)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7858-5

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Only for the strong-stomached.


Simon's dream to win a fortune in the school talent show with his two best pals, Munch and Ralph, is thwarted by the band trio’s lack of practice.

Simon likes to speak in big words (boldfaced and defined in a lengthy glossary in the end). Munch eats anything, even boogers and turds. Everything makes Ralph sick. These three jokes are repeated ad nauseam. But the exaggeration in this first novel by picture-book writer Kelley (Twelve Terrible Things, 2008) doesn’t end with these characterizations. Everyone is a stereotype: Simon’s hated big sister, their overweight and inattentive teacher, their ancient, muffin-flinging neighbor, Mrs. Annand, and their archenemies Mike, Evil Ernie and Eviler Ernie (who actually loves to knit). Chapter by chapter, Simon describes their failed attempts to practice for the Friday night show, Mrs. Annand’s bran-muffin attacks and finally, their lame performance, dancing to a toddler’s CD. Kelley’s graphite sketches accompany each chapter. Simon, with his glasses and V-neck sweater, is easily identifiable, as are other characters. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Munch is not the only one who gets a haircut. The concluding glossary includes example sentences but no pronunciation guides, making it less-than-useful.

Only for the strong-stomached. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2606-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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A familiar story skillfully reimagined for today’s gadget-savvy youth.



Hannah Hadley is a young special agent who must thwart a clear and present danger to the United States in Hoover’s “smart is cool” young adult novel.

Hannah Hadley might seem like most 13-year-old girls. She enjoys painting, playing with her MP3 player and spending time with friends. But that’s where the similarities end. Hadley doubles as Agent 10-1, among the youngest spies drafted into the CIA’s Div Y department. She’s joined in her missions by her 10-pound Shih Tzu, Kiwi (with whom she communicates telepathically), and her best friend Tommie Claire, a blind girl with heightened senses. When duty calls, the group sneaks to a hidden command center located under the floor of Hadley’s art studio. Her current mission, aptly named “Operation Farmer Jones,” takes her to a secluded farmhouse in Canada. There, al-Qaida terrorists have gathered the necessary ingredients for a particularly devastating nuclear warhead that they intend to fire into America. The villains are joined by the Mad Madam of Mayhem, a physicist for hire whom the terrorists force to complete the weapon of mass destruction. With Charlie Higson’s Young James Bond series and the ongoing 39 Clues novellas, covert missions and secret plans are the plots of choice in much of today’s fiction for young readers, and references to the famed 007 stories abound in Hoover’s tale. But while the plot feels familiar, Hoover’s use of modern slang—albeit strained at times—and gadgets such as the iTouch appeal to today’s youth. Placing girls in adult situations has been a mainstay since Mildred Wirt Benson first introduced readers to Nancy Drew in The Secret of the Old Clock, but Hannah Hadley is like Nancy Drew on steroids. Both are athletic, score well in their studies and have a measure of popularity. Hadley, however, displays a genius-level intellect and near superhuman abilities in her efforts to roust the terrorists—handy skills for a young teen spy who just so happens to get the best grades in school.

A familiar story skillfully reimagined for today’s gadget-savvy youth.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0615419688

Page Count: 239

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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