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Masterful artwork and nuanced verse invite readers to hold their breath and dive deep. (Picture book. 6-10)

Sophia knows all the sea’s secrets (its “dragons,” “floating forests,” “clowns,” “angels,” and “four-eyed butterflies”), and she invites readers to follow her deep underwater to discover what lies full fathom five.

Kaleidoscopic illustrations teem with cerulean colors, shifting shapes, and swirling patterns, evoking oceanic fantasies filled with mysterious sea creatures, treasure, magic, and transformations. Sophia’s ebony hair drifts with the current, her porcelain skin glows, and her calm voice coaxes readers down, down, down, where “tentacles, / antennae and teeth disappear into / darknesss…and an abyss becomes / a bottomless pit of possibilities….” Readers feel woozily enchanted by this little snow-white siren and the myriad underwater miracles as they descend. Shafts of white space, often highlighting the narrative verse, administer welcome breaths of air amid a density of fish and flotsam. Luxbacher’s graphite, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations (composed digitally, printed using archival inks and papers, then enhanced with soft-colored pencil and found collage materials) offer opportunity for interpretation and pleasurable scrutiny. Why and how is a little bird trailing Sophia all the way to the ocean’s floor? Who is Sophia’s reassuring mermaid twin? Readers ride waves of wonder all the way back to dry land, where they find Sophia snuggled in bed with her mother.

Masterful artwork and nuanced verse invite readers to hold their breath and dive deep. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-014-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

Dizzyingly silly.

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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