Magnus Maximus has a walrus mustache, a benign countenance and a preoccupation: measuring and counting. He doodles about his day, counting this and measuring that—petals on a geranium, raisins in a bun, wetness and dryness, nearness and farness—then slapping the tally, jotted on a piece of paper, onto the object of his interest. Seemingly oblivious, he corrals an escaped lion to do some close calculations and for his good citizenry is named his town’s official measurer. Maximus myopically goes on his way until he breaks his glasses and learns that there is more to life than numbers—like waves to splash in and “the snugness of a hand in a hand.” This is a lovely marriage of word and image. Pelley’s text is brightly humorous and musical—“Now that he was the town’s official measurer, Magnus Maximus had to measure all kinds of NESSes, from the wobbliness of a jellyfish to the itchiness of an itch”—and that goes for Schindler’s illustrations as well, with their busily elegant line work, their lustrous washes of color and, best of all, their high and brilliant tomfoolery. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-34725-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010


From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009


One of the watershed moments in African-American history—the defeat of James Braddock at the hands of Joe Louis—is here given an earnest picture-book treatment. Despite his lack of athletic ability, Sammy wants desperately to be a great boxer, like his hero, getting boxing lessons from his friend Ernie in exchange for help with schoolwork. However hard he tries, though, Sammy just can’t box, and his father comforts him, reminding him that he doesn’t need to box: Joe Louis has shown him that he “can be the champion at anything [he] want[s].” The high point of this offering is the big fight itself, everyone crowded around the radio in Mister Jake’s general store, the imagined fight scenes played out in soft-edged sepia frames. The main story, however, is so bent on providing Sammy and the reader with object lessons that all subtlety is lost, as Mister Jake, Sammy’s father, and even Ernie hammer home the message. Both text and oil-on-canvas-paper illustrations go for the obvious angle, making the effort as a whole worthy, but just a little too heavy-handed. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58430-161-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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