From the Fergus and Zeke series

A wholesome, solid story with fun characters.

Classroom pet mice Fergus and Zeke work on a Presidents Day project.

As Miss Maxwell’s students discuss good qualities for presidents to have and ways in which eligibility requirements have evolved to allow women and people of color to run for office, Zeke dons a cotton ball wig as President “George Mousington.” At the library, as the students work on their projects, the mice struggle with their own division of labor, with President Zeke considering his “supervising” equal to Fergus’ research. With the project presentations rapidly approaching—and the mice no closer to deciding upon their subject—Fergus thinks of what he wants in a president, prompting him to stand up to Zeke: “All mice are created equal.” The kids—and the use of historical and presidential facts—are a backdrop to the engaging storyline of Zeke’s comedically flawed (and likably relatable) self-centeredness, but the value-driven thematic inspiration is an effective motivator for Fergus’ assertiveness. The resulting combination of silliness and broad-strokes idealism creates a rounded story structure without heavy tension. Finally, the human students show off their projects and discuss what they would do if they were president, briefly revealing concerns involving the environment, housing, gender equality, food insecurity—and eliminating homework. Miss Maxwell presents White, librarian Mr. Diaz is Latine, and the students are diverse.

A wholesome, solid story with fun characters. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1831-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023



Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011


From the Elephant & Piggie series

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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