A sure win for word lovers that’s also bound to create some new fans of words.

SMELL THE DAISIES

From the Big Words Small Stories series

This latest installment in the Big Words Small Stories series follows an active girl named Oleander and her laid-back pet, Sally Mander.

Following the same pattern as the previous series entries (The Traveling Dustball, 2019, etc.), five small stories are preceded by a “Who’s Who” section and followed by “A Small Play on Big Words.” The gray-haired Sprinkle Fairy has a word factory in Sicily, where her multicolored, animate-candy helpers, the Sprinklers, “sprinkle Big Words into small places.” Their appearance in an episode (along with their announcement, “Big word coming! BIG!”) precipitates the appearance of a big word at the climax of the story. The stories unfold in dialogue among characters, often punctuated with acts of magic by the Sprinkle Fairy. After being used repeatedly in the story, each big word is defined at the story’s end. The final “Small Play” is a skit presented by the Sprinklers in which all of the Big Words are used in context. The format makes the process of learning new vocabulary, such as “regurgitate,” “flabbergasted” and “peccadillo,” fun and exciting for young readers. The stories themselves are chuckleworthy, and the Big Word usage is delightful. The illustrations—small, brightly colored vignettes of characters on white space, almost like comics without the frames—are perfect for young independent readers. Oleander presents black, with two puffy pigtails, and the Sprinkle Fairy presents white.

A sure win for word lovers that’s also bound to create some new fans of words. (Early reader. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77138-790-3

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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