Despite some good adventures, such as the fun of tossing buffalo chips and the thrill of climbing Laurel Hill, the...


A series of illustrated fictional monologues introduces the history of the Oregon Trail.

It’s a good idea, and the beginning is great: Readers meet 13-year-old Carl Hawks, who is helping his father lead a wagon train from Independence, Mo., to Oregon City. Carl sets up the tale as he lists possible hardships along the trail and asks, “WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS TIME?” In the next spread, Patience Mills bids a poignant farewell to her baby’s grave as her family joins the wagon train. Now the text makes its fatal mistake: Hereafter, there is a dizzying parade of new names and relationships until the end, when Carl reappears to summarize the journey’s calamities and declare the trip “not bad.” The single-page monologues are attractively and appropriately set in Caslon Antique against a faded, faux burlap background. Unfortunately, the generic pen-and-ink-plus-watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of 1960s TV Westerns. The folksy free verse, although more informative than the art, fails in its too-ambitious attempt to delineate 16 different characters.

Despite some good adventures, such as the fun of tossing buffalo chips and the thrill of climbing Laurel Hill, the combination of a one-voice-fits-all twang with too many names and characters is numbing rather than inspiring. (maps, historical notes, author’s note, further reading) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3775-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.


From the Rafi and Rosi series

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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