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From the Jitters series

Not as strong as Mrs. Hartwell’s previous outings.

Mrs. Hartwell, of first-day, last-day and standardized-test fame, is back, this time trying to survive a class field trip.

It’s taken some time for the teacher to get over the last class field trip, but with some preparation, this time she thinks she is ready. And over the course of the day at the zoo, she carefully follows her handwritten list of field-trip tips, but her “handy-dandy, just-in-case-something-unexpected-happens bag” still gets some use. From a bus-related delay and a few minor scrapes to a serious need for some paper towels and a change of clothes, pith-helmet–clad Mrs. Hartwell is prepared for any eventuality, including the need to change her own carefully made plans. Teachers will certainly see the humor and gentle lessons in Danneberg’s latest school story. The questions is, will kids be as engaged? The kids’ mishaps are just as tongue-in-cheek as ever, but behind them is the fact that Mrs. Hartwell’s writing assignment is keeping them from seeing some of the cool things the zoo animals are doing—maybe it’s revealing too many tips of the trade? Love’s illustrations are fun to peruse, and she masterfully portrays her characters’ every emotion. But while Eddie’s personality comes through loud and clear, the other students are rather generic, not like the class found in Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ Twelve Days series.

Not as strong as Mrs. Hartwell’s previous outings. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-671-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.

A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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From the Stink series

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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