Busy and insubstantial plot plus only mildly amusing illustrations add up to very little.

OCTO-MAN AND THE HEADLESS MONSTER

From the Escapades of Clint McCool series , Vol. 1

“Walter isn’t a bad boy.” That’s what Walter’s mother always says…and she has to say it a lot.

Young Walter, self-named Clint McCool, never seems to do the right thing. He’s got a magic hat with buttons to help him think of good ideas, translate what adults say, and even change his face so he will not look like a smart aleck—but it doesn’t always work for him. With a plot that moves faster than Walter’s brain, the book takes readers along as he tries to find an escapade. His friends M.L. and Marco would like to play with him, but they aren’t as willing to risk getting into trouble as Walter is. His insistence on involving himself in a movie being shot in the neighborhood seems to be just another one of his bad ideas. As events escalate, his friends simply give up on him. Who can blame them? Sometimes he seems downright unlikable. When his mom asks if he is listening, Walter thinks, “Actually, I’m not. If Mom wants me to, she should talk about something interesting.” Really? Interior black, white, and blue illustrations depict all characters with paper-white skin and Walter with light hair; Marco and M.L. both have dark hair (his closely cropped and hers curly), possibly cuing them as children of color.

Busy and insubstantial plot plus only mildly amusing illustrations add up to very little. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-448-48754-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Young readers with a fondness for amphibians will jump all over this one. (Fiction. 6-8)

STINK AND THE FREAKY FROG FREAKOUT

From the Stink series , Vol. 8

Stink Moody, younger brother of Judy, hops into the spotlight with a common problem—and  one that’s a bit more unusual.

Stink would like to advance in his swimming lessons, but he’s afraid to put his face underwater and seems doomed to remain a Polliwog forever. Fortunately, he’s distracted from that issue by the sudden appearance around town—in some surprising places—of a whole lot of real frogs, a few of which are deformed. These frogs give McDonald the opportunity to offer a little information, through the voice of a nature-center guide, on how adverse environmental conditions can influence frog development. Stink memorizes a variety of frog sounds, enabling him to participate in a frog count at a local pond. Somehow, he becomes convinced that he’s turning into a frog himself, but that might just make it possible for him to swim underwater. Brief, cheery, oversized text and lot of cartoonish black-and-white illustrations (only some of which were available for review) make this a good choice for newly independent readers. A minor issue is that the text informs readers that it is early spring; even in Virginia, that’s a little early for Stink to be taking swimming lessons in an outdoor pool, as indicated in the illustrations.

Young readers with a fondness for amphibians will jump all over this one. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6140-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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