This whodunit is terribly entertaining, guaranteed to engage readers till the very end.

CHAPTER TWO IS MISSING!

“Wait!” the story starts, as the unnamed narrator/protagonist—personified as a kid in a bow tie and shorts—explains that someone has stolen the book’s Chapter Two.

Willing to pay any price to get the chapter back—because the book would not be complete otherwise—the narrator/protagonist enlists readers’ help, asking them to contact Detective McGarrigan. True to the narrator/protagonist’s word, the second chapter of the book is missing; readers get a glimpse of faded black type, as if the chapter has been wiped off the page. Turning the page reveals the beginning of Chapter 3, where Milo, the book’s janitor, is in the middle of a diatribe, asking the narrator/protagonist to apologize to him. When the narrator/protagonist refuses, Milo plays with the punctuation on the page and then leaves, grumbling about how no one respects a book’s janitor even though he’s the one who keeps the book clean so it can be read. Enter Detective McGarrigan, an extremely clueless middle-aged woman who tends to misunderstand information and miss clues that are right under her nose. Cue the hilarity as the narrator/protagonist and Detective McGarrigan bumble through wordplay and metatextual references as they try to solve the mystery of the missing chapter. Lieb’s capricious storytelling combines with Cornell’s bold, minimalist cartoons, done in black, white, and saffron, to result in a tale that is at once clever and uproariously funny.

This whodunit is terribly entertaining, guaranteed to engage readers till the very end. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3548-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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THEY ALL SAW A CAT

Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!

ROT, THE BRAVEST IN THE WORLD!

A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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