A well-designed book with a simple, approachable text and emotionally aloof illustrations.

READ REVIEW

BOATS ON THE BAY

Boats that ply the waters of California’s San Francisco Bay Area are highlighted in this picture book.

Beginning with “A houseboat rocks by a dock,” Harvey uses short sentences, with occasional internal rhymes, to introduce readers to a day of boat life on the bay. The text’s brevity is juxtaposed against McFerrin’s full-bleed double-page spreads, which, with their retro palette, cut-collage shapes, and freehand drawing overlay, are reminiscent of mid-20th-century advertising graphics. Their overall impression, though, is somewhat somber and emotionally removed since the palette leans toward the cool, blue end of the spectrum. The people illustrated are predominantly unsmiling, profile or rear-aspect adults (many white, though the stylized images permit other interpretations) who come across as preoccupied and distant rather than engaging of readers. The narrative however, is completely approachable, with a pleasing circularity, as the story ends where it began—with the houseboat, now at the end of the day. The book’s design is well thought out; the page turn after the text, “A barge sets off fiery fireworks” becomes a wordless double gatefold as the scene lifts up to show fireworks against the city skyline with boats and water in the foreground. Pleasingly, the book’s boards are imprinted with a design different from the dust jacket.

A well-designed book with a simple, approachable text and emotionally aloof illustrations. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944903-33-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

ELBOW GREASE

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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