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From the Larry Gets Lost series

Larry could use a better compass.

As Larry Gets Lost again per series formula, the dog and his boy, Pete, look for alphabet letters and explore New York City.

The sights they take in are sometimes specific and sometimes generic, but they are mostly iconic: “C is for Central Park and the Chrysler building,” while “D is for deli.” “W is for Wall Street,” and “Y is for Yankee Stadium” exemplify New York City, but “I is for ice cream” seems a bit of a stretch. Several entries will require some context for many readers, such as “A is for art” (a lineup of Warhol soup cans at the Museum of Modern Art); “H is for the High Line”; and “V is for the Village” (Greenwich Village, that is). In Skewes’ retro-styled illustrations, Pete is a white boy who looks a bit like Elroy Jetson, with hair puffing out from beneath the brim of a baseball cap, and Larry is similarly stylized. The mostly silhouetted background figures that occasionally appear do nothing to convey the city’s tremendous cultural diversity. The pages are largely just one- or two-color designs in a sophisticated palette that occasionally works against meaning: The blue-on-blue “N is for neon at night” (in Times Square) is devoid of neon. The square size makes the pages feel cramped. NY Is for New York, by Paul Thurlby (2017), does much the same thing and is far more attractive.

Larry could use a better compass. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63217-167-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A mixed bag.

An alphabetical tour of emotions.

This British import mixes words that many young kids will know, such as brave, kind, and mad (the last defined in the American sense, as angry), with less-familiar ones such as overwhelmed and vulnerable. It even features at least one word that may be new to adults: “X is for Xenial….Xenial is being welcoming to strangers.” Compounding the difficulty here, the visual image of a Black kid dressed as a magician hugging a rabbit they’ve pulled out of a hat does not exactly illustrate xeniality (xenialness?). Other illustrations do a better job of helping readers understand the words being introduced. The illustrations feature racially diverse children and are usually paired in each double-page spread: “A is for Anxious. Anxious is feeling really worried about something. / B is for Brave. Brave is being nervous about something and doing it anyway.” On the A page, a brown-skinned kid cowers from the dragon that encircles their bed, as in a nightmare. Across the gutter on the B page, the ferociously scowling child confronts the now-intimidated monster. Kids will get an immediate sense of those two words. Animals, real and imaginary, often play a role in the pictures. The book will be best shared one on one or in very small groups, when children can really spend time examining the pictures and talking about their own impression of what is happening in each picture. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A mixed bag. (word list) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20519-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Another feather in McCloskey’s cap.

Budding naturalists who dug We Dig Worms! (2015) will, well, coo over this similarly enlightening accolade.

A curmudgeonly park visitor’s “They’re RATS with wings!” sparks spirited rejoinders from a racially diverse flock of children wearing full-body bird outfits, who swoop down to deliver a mess of pigeon facts. Along with being related to the dodo, “rock doves” fly faster than a car, mate for life, have been crossbred into all sorts of “fancies,” inspired Pablo Picasso to name his daughter “Paloma” in their honor, can be eaten (“Tastes like chicken”), and, like penguins and flamingos, create “pigeon milk” in their crops for their hatchlings. Painted on light blue art paper—“the kind,” writes McCloskey in his afterword, “used by Picasso”—expertly depicted pigeons of diverse breeds common and fancy strut their stuff, with views of the children and other wild creatures, plus occasional helpful labels, interspersed. In the chastened parkgoer’s eyes, as in those of the newly independent readers to whom this is aimed, the often maligned birds are “wonderful.” Cue a fresh set of costumed children on the final page, gearing up to set him straight on squirrels.

Another feather in McCloskey’s cap. (Graphic informational early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935179-93-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: TOON Books & Graphics

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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