Realistically conveying the close affinity of boys for bikes anywhere in the world, Olaleye (In the Rainfield, 2000) also introduces the young reader to a small slice of village life in contemporary western Nigeria. Lateef, a spunky young boy, wants to rent a bike, but doesn’t have the wherewithal to do so, until he starts earning his own money by selling mushrooms and firewood. He starts off on a small bike, but won’t rest until he is allowed to rent the big, shiny, red one, the pride of the fleet. As usual, a boy’s derring-do leads to a fall and Lateef has a doozy. In order to repay the bike-owner, Lateef offers to work for him. He pays his debt honorably and builds a bike of his own from spare parts. Demarest’s (Someday We’ll Have Very Good Manners, 2000, etc.) energetic watercolors, warm in tone with yellow skies and brown skins, roads and clothing, impart a modest sense of life in an African country, but there are not enough specific details here in either text or pictures to satisfy a child’s curiosity. Although the illustrator paints women in traditional clothing, his generalized depictions do not reflect the fabrics used or the head coverings worn. The text uses a few onomatopoetic words to quicken the tempo: “Bump! Thump! Whomp!”—but this device is not enough to give the story a true voice. Ifeoma Onyefulu’s photo essays, such as Ogbo: Sharing Life in an African Village (1996) give a stronger picture of life in Nigeria, while Tollolwa M. Mollel’s My Rows and Piles of Coins (1999), set in Tanzania, is a more effective story about a boy who must earn money to buy a bicycle. Pleasant, but pedestrian. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-531-30290-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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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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