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THE BETTER TREE FORT

Time together is truly wonderful for one father and son. (Picture book. 3-6)

Do-it-yourself dads rock, especially in the backyard.

When Russell sees the enormous maple tree in his new backyard, he immediately thinks tree fort and draws up the plans for the structure and all its important attachments. His dad is a very willing accomplice to the project, although he’s not at all sure of what to do and how to do it. After a good deal of work, the tree fort is completed. It is not anywhere near what Russell had planned, but in his eyes “It’s perfect” (even without the escape slide). Father and son (both white) spend a wonderful night together in it. The next morning brings consternation to Russell when he sees a tree fort being erected in a neighbor’s backyard—a very big and very fancy endeavor. It has turrets. And electricity. And an escape slide. Russell joins the boy of color to whom it belongs for a snack and learns that his father hired a construction crew. But does it have everything a better tree fort should have? Russell goes home to be with his father, who may not be the best builder but is clearly the “better dad.” Kerrin’s story of father-son love is endearing and warm-spirited. Leng’s ink, watercolor, and pencil-crayon illustrations are softly hued, fluid, and filled with enough details to engage readers.

Time together is truly wonderful for one father and son. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-863-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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IZZY GIZMO AND THE INVENTION CONVENTION

From the Izzy Gizmo series

A disappointing follow-up.

Inventor Izzy Gizmo is back in this sequel to her eponymous debut (2017).

While busily inventing one day, Izzy receives an invitation from the Genius Guild to their annual convention. Though Izzy’s “inventions…don’t always work,” Grandpa (apparently her sole caregiver) encourages her to go. The next day they undertake a long journey “over fields, hills, and waves” and “mile after mile” to isolated Technoff Isle. There, Izzy finds she must compete against four other kids to create the most impressive machine. The colorful, detail-rich illustrations chronicle how poor Izzy is thwarted at every turn by Abi von Lavish, a Veruca Salt–esque character who takes all the supplies for herself. But when Abi abandons her project, Izzy salvages the pieces and decides to take Grandpa’s advice to create a machine that “can really be put to good use.” A frustrated Izzy’s impatience with a friend almost foils her chance at the prize, but all’s well that ends well. There’s much to like: Brown-skinned inventor girl Izzy is an appealing character, it’s great to see a nurturing brown-skinned male caregiver, the idea of an “Invention Convention” is fun, and a sustainable-energy invention is laudable. However, these elements don’t make up for rhymes that often feel forced and a lackluster story.

A disappointing follow-up. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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