What to do when you haven’t found any friends at your new school and it’s already (gasp!) October? Second-grader Max Pilner thinks he has the answer in David’s (When Second Graders Attack, p. 565, etc.) latest offering. King’s (Enemy Pie, 2000, etc.) vibrant illustrations—which depict Max and his classmates with oversized heads, skinny necks, and wide-set reptilian eyes—are appropriately offbeat, perfect for portraying Max as he makes his transformation into Captain Crusader for the Halloween costume contest at school. “I have many powers. I fight villains and save animals and people from calamitous disasters,” Max tells his classmates, who are dressed as the standard issue cat, witch, and firefighter. Forget about being a superhero—Max’s confident alter ego renders him a super star, and everyone wants to play with him. He even wins the costume contest. But David’s tightly woven text soon reveals a new thread. Max, flush with success, continues to dress up. “That costume’s dirty,” says one child. “Why can’t you be a beetle?” asks another who’s involved in a game of Giant Bug Attack. The rejection is too much for Max; King’s (Enemy Pie, 2000, etc.) full-bleed illustration shows the boy, in tattered costume, wreaking havoc on the playground. In a vignette, opposite, his teacher phones home. Any reader who has ever felt left out will sympathize with poor Max’s predicament. But it’s his unwavering determination and quick thinking that’s inspiring; with his father’s gentle insistence, Max goes to school sans costume and ends up making friends the old-fashioned way—by just being himself. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-32746-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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From the Mrs. Hartwell's Classroom Adventures series

One more myth dispelled for all the students who believe that their teachers live in their classrooms. During the last week of school, Mrs. Hartwell and her students reflect on the things they will miss, while also looking forward to the fun that summer will bring. The kids want to cheer up their teacher, whom they imagine will be crying over lesson plans and missing them all summer long. But what gift will cheer her up? Numerous ideas are rejected, until Eddie comes up with the perfect plan. They all cooperate to create a rhyming ode to the school year and their teacher. Love’s renderings of the children are realistic, portraying the diversity of modern-day classrooms, from dress and expression to gender and skin color. She perfectly captures the emotional trauma the students imagine their teachers will go through as they leave for the summer. Her final illustration hysterically shatters that myth, and will have every teacher cheering aloud. What a perfect end to the school year. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58089-046-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...


From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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