Amusing but perhaps spread a bit too thin.

The Goodwill Vultures Club

A DAY OF HEROES

A wounded pet vulture helps Buzz, a soon-to-be fifth-grader, connect with new human friends after the pet lights up the life of a special needs child and her family.

Buzz calls to order a meeting of the Goodwill Vultures Club, consisting of one human, two dogs and Roberta the vulture. Conveniently, Buzz’s dad—whom Buzz lives with following his parents’ divorce—happens to be an ornithologist who received a permit to keep Rob. The club is interrupted by PeeWee, Buzz’s African-American best friend, who lives next door. The boys’ dialogue is sometimes dated: “And what are you doing having a club meeting with your animals? That’s just weird,” Peewee says. “Whatever, corndog.” “Your granny is a corndog,” PeeWee shoots back. When Buzz takes Rob to a Special Populations basketball game (think Special Olympics for local kids) to help cheer on Jason—Buzz’s vain, wheelchair-bound teenage brother with cerebral palsy—a threatening older boy yells that the “ugly bird” is scaring the athletes, and a lady volunteer boots Buzz and Rob from the building. The next day, and somewhat unbelievably, Buzz takes Rob to another Special Populations event at an indoor pool, where he gets to know Caroline, an outgoing classmate. Next, PeeWee tells Buzz about “Animal Heroes,” a community contest for pets who have helped people. Buzz then gets called in to the community center to discuss an incident at the pool. Expecting bad news, Buzz is surprised—though even young readers might not be—by the good news that Rob delighted an autistic girl named Chrissy at the pool. A TV news story about how the vulture drew Chrissy out of her shell makes Buzz and Rob local favorites to win the competition. (The reporter keeps calling Rob a “most unusual pet vulture”; Buzz humorously wonders what a usual pet vulture would look like.) When Buzz and Rob next encounter the aforementioned tough, older boy—the brother of a “brooding” classmate, Mark—his attitude has completely changed because Chrissy happens to be his cousin. In the end, the good outcome for Chrissy and her family overshadows the actual outcome of the Animal Heroes contest. Though this novel is stuffed with too many storylines and plot contrivances, its unusual avian hero and overall good humor will appeal to many middle-grade readers.

Amusing but perhaps spread a bit too thin.

Pub Date: May 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1935711261

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Peak City Publishing, LLC.

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2013

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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