Onward Joe and Sparky! (Early reader. 6-8)


From the Joe and Sparky series

It’s not Mary’s little lamb, but Joe the giraffe and Sparky the turtle who go to school one day in this third installment of Michalak and Remkiewicz’s early-reader series.

When Joe and Sparky spy a field trip at Safari Land, “the famous cageless zoo,” Joe can’t resist getting a closer look at the school bus, which is big, yellow and loud, just like him. With Sparky perched atop his head, Joe sidles up to the bus, and the turtle inadvertently ends up speeding away on the bus’ roof. Ever loyal, Joe leaps onto the back of the bus to save his friend. In the second chapter, they arrive at the school, where the teacher, Miss Hootie, steps on her glasses. Her sight compromised, she mistakes Joe and Sparky for a student (presumably one that’s wearing a hat), much to her real students’ delight and amusement. Try as they might, the animals can’t quite master the class routines, and Joe is woefully disappointed, as he wants to earn a star from Miss Hootie. Happily, Sparky finds ways to affirm his friend, and they end up back in Safari Land by book’s end. While the story feels rather forced and reliant on slapstick, and the pictures not always great at providing context cues for new readers, fans of the earlier, stronger series installments will be pleased to revisit its characters.

Onward Joe and Sparky! (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6278-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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            There are many parallel legends – the seal women, for example, with their strange sad longings – but none is more direct than this American Indian story of a girl who is carried away in a horses’ stampede…to ride thenceforth by the side of a beautiful stallion who leads the wild horses.  The girl had always loved horses, and seemed to understand them “in a special way”; a year after her disappearance her people find her riding beside the stallion, calf in tow, and take her home despite his strong resistance.  But she is unhappy and returns to the stallion; after that, a beautiful mare is seen riding always beside him.  Goble tells the story soberly, allowing it to settle, to find its own level.  The illustrations are in the familiar striking Goble style, but softened out here and there with masses of flowers and foliage – suitable perhaps for the switch in subject matter from war to love, but we miss the spanking clean design of Custer’s Last Battle and The Fetterman Fight.          6-7

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1978

ISBN: 0689845049

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978

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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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