WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM, CLARICE BEAN?

The indomitable heroine of two previous picture books returns to provide readers with her own take on environmentalism: “Nature is something I know lots about. We’ve got lots of it in our backyard.” Joined with her old nemesis, Robert Granger, by her new nemesis, the humorless Mrs. Wilberton, on a school project about snails and worms, she nevertheless manages to put her own individual stamp on it when her brother Kurt stages a sit-in to protest the cutting down of a neighborhood tree. Child’s signature style (Clarice Bean, Guess Who’s Babysitting, 2001, etc.), which combines cartoony line-and-watercolor figures with photographic collage, is, if possible, even more unrestrained than in her previous outings. Mrs. Wilberton looks like a spiky cross between Viola Swamp and Ms. Frizzle (her glasses bristle with malevolent energy), while Clarice’s businessman father appears complete with five o’clock shadow. The typeface is fully integrated with the overall design—each character speaks in an individualized font—and frequently spirals wildly over the page, even as the story itself goes wackily over the top. Clarice’s precocious voice is nearly perfect, as she parrots half-understood adult phrases in her own narration: “Dad would much rather cook for a living but he’s up to his ears in the wheeling and dealing business and someone’s got to bring home the bacon.” At the end, Clarice Bean declares herself an ecowarrior, and while child readers are likely to be as unclear on that concept as Clarice herself is, the busy illustrations, the frenetic pacing, and the crazed good humor with which Clarice’s whole family involves itself in the protest will elicit (though less reluctantly) the same praise given by Mrs. Wilberton: “Well done, Clarice Bean!” (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-1696-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are...

DRAGONS AND MARSHMALLOWS

From the Zoey and Sassafras series , Vol. 1

Zoey discovers that she can see magical creatures that might need her help.

That’s a good thing because her mother has been caring for the various beasts since childhood, but now she’s leaving on a business trip so the work will fall to Zoey. Most people (like Zoey’s father) can’t see the magical creatures, so Zoey, who appears in illustrations to be black, will have to experiment with their care by problem-solving using the scientific method to determine appropriate treatment and feeding. When a tiny, sick dragon shows up on her doorstep, she runs an experiment and determines that marshmallows appear to be the proper food. Unfortunately, she hadn’t done enough research beforehand to understand that although dragons might like marshmallows, they might not be the best food for a sick, fire-breathing baby. Although the incorporation of important STEM behaviors is a plus, the exposition is mildly clunky, with little character development and stilted dialogue. Many pages are dense with large-print text, related in Zoey’s not especially childlike voice. However, the inclusion in each chapter of a couple of attractive black-and-white illustrations of round-faced people and Zoey’s mischievous cat helps break up the narrative.

In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are nice to see. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943147-08-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: The Innovation Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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