SECOND BANANA

Take this off the shelf to share with primary-grade students who are navigating the ever changing landscape of friendship.

Under the big top, the show must go on, but the relationship between a spotlight-grabbing monkey and the amiable gorilla that assists him is ripe for a change.

“The Amazing Bubbles was the star of the circus. / Oop was not.” The grinning, diminutive monkey is the focus of every act, but huge and helpful Oop always works behind the scenes. She is “the pool filler-upper, tire pumper-upper, music holder-upper, and fuse lighter-upper,” but she longs for her turn to be a star. Bubbles dismisses the idea: “You silly gorilla! Think of us as bananas. Obviously, I am the Top Banana. The Big Banana. Numero Uno Banana. You are Second Banana.” But a mishap leaves Bubbles with a boo-boo, and Oop eagerly comes forward to help. The results are less than optimal. When Oop launches out of the cannon with such power that she bursts through the tent, disaster appears imminent—but “far below, a pair of skinny arms reached up for her.” Readers will relate to the uneven friendship dynamics softened with humor. Graves deftly uses pencil and digital color to illustrate the range of Oop’s emotions as well as the duo’s antics. Happily, Bubbles and Oop remain pals, and their relationship evolves—but there always seems to be the need for a second banana.

Take this off the shelf to share with primary-grade students who are navigating the ever changing landscape of friendship. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59643-883-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

LOLA AND THE TROLL

Too idealistic by half.

A group of kids take a troll to task.

A troll named Tom lives in Lola’s neighborhood. In Rodriguez’s delicate artwork, he’s tall and bizarre looking, with party hats for ears and oven mitts over his hands, and as kids walk past, he holds up signs plastered with insulting messages tailored to what he sees. No one likes the troll, but his comments cut. Most try to avoid Tom, but a light-skinned girl named Lola takes the messages to heart and slowly changes herself in an attempt to avoid criticism. After Lola has a heartfelt conversation with a bookstore owner about how bullies are the ones who are really afraid, she and the other kids stand up to the troll, revealed to be a short, light-skinned boy who’s “new to this neighborhood” and “just wanted…attention.” Many pages are crammed full of text, and one central metaphor feels overexplained as Lola describes herself as “tall on the inside,” which is apparently “what counts.” This story attempts to deliver an old-fashioned message about bullying through the modern concept of an internet troll, but neither element works especially well in this earnest text that naïvely imagines that all conflicts can be resolved through conversation and that trolls can be scared away through honesty and confidence.

Too idealistic by half. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780593527634

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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