This is well-meaning whimsy, but it’s unlikely to truly engage children.

THE LITTLE BOX

A mysterious box brings out the best in people.

Mariana nervously walks to her new classroom with Papa. To calm her, Papa gives Mariana a small pink box but warns that she not open it until she must: if she’s “sad, scared, or worried.” Almost immediately, Mariana opens the box and feels a rush of air and a sensation like a kiss; readers see collaged floral designs floating around Mariana. She feels better, but an unfriendly classmate sends her to the box again. This time, something “like a warm hug” emerges. When Mariana creates artwork that garners admiration, she realizes her spirits have lifted without the box. At recess, the mean student falls, so Mariana opens the box to share its power with him. It’s left up to readers’ imaginations what’s inside the box—or whether there’s anything inside at all. Is it really magical, or is Mariana’s own agency at work? The happy ending is pat and predictable and doesn’t answer the questions. Illustrations are colorful, lively, and expressive; readers will appreciate the fanciful images that fly from the box. Characters’ names suggest a possible Hispanic setting, and print elements in the collage are in Spanish. Mariana and Papa have olive skin and dark hair; other characters have diverse skin tones and hair colors.

This is well-meaning whimsy, but it’s unlikely to truly engage children. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6800-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Wonderful, indeed

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THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU WILL BE

A GROWING-UP POEM

A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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