“OK, so I’m Uncle Blubbafink. Hello already. I hear you’re looking for a good story or two. Well, you came to the right place.” This assertion is highly debatable. Uncle Blubbafink, a balding, squatty individual with deeply purple skin and a black-and-white striped trunk instead of a nose, certainly has stories to tell, but they stop short of being “seriously ridiculous,” managing instead to be seriously unfunny. Graves (Pet Boy, p. 109, etc.) here attempts the sort of zany hijinks perfected by Scieszka and Smith but delivers a tedious round of busily and brightly illustrated stories about Abraham (“Honest Ham”) Sandwich and George Washing Machine and the mysteriously chopped-down ham trees; Smoky, the baby volcano who was raised by chickens; and Dave, the dragon who ate so many used-car parts his head turned into a station wagon. Clearly the reader is expected to delight in these flights of illogic, but there is so little underpinning to them that they exist in a referential vacuum and thus carry very little humor. The book designer also clearly takes the Scieszka/Smith collaborations as a model, allowing the typeface to change color, size, and font in rapid succession, swooping around the pictures with abandon. The illustrations themselves are competent, and some, such as the image of a grassy moon covered with munching cows, are mildly humorous. Make no mistake: the same kids who love Captain Underpants may well revel in Uncle Blubbafink. But it’s hard to imagine an adult able to bear reading it to them. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-24083-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001


A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997


Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

Close Quickview