Title notwithstanding, not the most welcoming of books.


An energetic series of haiku celebrates the first day of school.

Some describe individuals: “Angelica” is “Like a red rocket / Flashing across a blue sky: / Her hair in the wind” as she runs to catch the bus. Some orient readers to their classrooms: “Name Tags” are “At every desk, / A chair with tennis-ball feet, / A place just for you.” Some capture the experience: In crowded “Hallways,” younger children watch as “A thick herd of cows / Tramples past, smelly and loud. / Fifth graders are tall.” The individual poems’ success as haiku vary. Some, like “Hallways” and “Growing Up,” in which a mother bids goodbye to a fledgling kindergartner as a “small / Bird flies from its nest,” nail the form; others are more patterned, short narratives than anything else. Oddly, for a book that purports welcome, a mean-spirited streak surfaces. Student “Harold” is described thus: “Like a duck, one boy / Waddles down the hall, quacking. / Yikes, he’s in my class!” Another poem celebrates a “Prank,” in which an older child who knows the ways of a particular water fountain “smirks” while turning the knob to splash the face of the unsuspecting younger child. The kid laughs instead of crying, but it feels gratuitous. GrandPré’s busy, colorful paintings use primary colors to render this racially diverse school’s cheerfully chaotic first day.

Title notwithstanding, not the most welcoming of books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15588-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character


From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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