The book is brilliant in its confirmation of an essential truth of childhood, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling,...

WHAT THERE IS BEFORE THERE IS ANYTHING THERE

A SCARY STORY

A lad is tormented by existential boojums every night in this comically eerie variation on a common bedtime trope.

No sooner do his parents bid him sweet dreams and switch off the light than the ceiling becomes “a black hole…black and infinite”—through which float small creatures of diverse shape who stand around his bed and stare at him fixedly. At last, the arrival of a slit-eyed blot that reaches out with twiggy tentacles and whispers, “I am what there is before there is anything there,” sends him pelting toward the parental bedroom. “It’s just your imagination,” soothes his mother, oblivious to the creature that floats into view on the last page. Liniers depicts the grown-ups from neck down to create a child-level perspective, but his dot-eyed, angst-ridden protagonist could be any age. Heavily crosshatched shadows and nighttime visitors with mildly grotesque features add appropriately spooky notes. Snuggling between parents (“But this is the last time”) banishes those boogeymen, right? Wrong.

The book is brilliant in its confirmation of an essential truth of childhood, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling, though possibly more for adult readers than for children . (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-385-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Larded with earnest purpose but unconvincing and far from likely to be the first call for attention to America’s weight...

EDDIE SHAPES UP

With a message-driven tale of a plump lad who turns over a new leaf, an ex-mayor of New York and his sister clobber readers with the Board of Education.

To judge from the contemporary dress of the figures in Hoefer’s inexpert illustrations, this isn’t intended to be autobiographical despite the main character’s name—though a breezy admission in the closing lecture that the co-authors were both "chubby" children does creates a certain resonance. Round as the apple he discards from his lunch every day, young Eddie chows down on fatty foods and avoids playground games for fear of embarrassment—until a friend tells him that he’s “a little heavy and out of shape. Maybe it’s because of the way you eat.” The next day Eddie begins asking his mom for healthier breakfasts than bagels with butter and also heads for the park to jog. A “few weeks” later he’s nimble enough to chase down a runaway baby carriage, hold his own in a playground dodgeball game and even join the school’s soccer team. Despite a seemingly simple program—eat less, cut down on the cookies, exercise regularly—will Eddie’s example prompt similar sudden epiphanies in rotund readers? Fat chance.

Larded with earnest purpose but unconvincing and far from likely to be the first call for attention to America’s weight problem that children or parents will encounter. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60478-378-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Zagat

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Chapter-book readers should latch onto it. (Fantasy. 6-8)

THE BIG HAIRY SECRET

From the Furry and Flo series , Vol. 1

The Corman Towers apartment building has a creepy outside; wait till Flo sees the inside!

Fourth-grader-to-be Florence (but don’t call her that) has moved around each year since her father died; her mom has to go where the work is. This year’s building, Corman Towers, is in the city and doesn’t look promising. The apartment has cracked windows and stains, and there’s a kid in his underwear running through the hallway. Weird. Ferdinand—“Furry”—is no less weird when Flo actually meets him, but at least he puts some shorts on. Then her groceries are attacked and her Popsicles stolen. Flo thinks some dog may have done it, but no pets are allowed. Flo goes in search of Furry, who’s doing laundry, and he shows her a crack in the basement floor that goes blue. Weird. Late that night, she catches Furry (in his underwear again) running with her Popsicles…and when she chases him to the roof, he’s turned into a werewolf! Before that can settle, they’re attacked by a giant spider. Can the new friends escape a rampaging momma spider? Troupe’s series kickoff is a slightly spooky and little-bit-goofy tale for those just starting chapter books. Gilpin’s occasional black-and-white, pen-and-ink cartoon illustrations are a nice match. Glossary, questions and prompts at the close provide some educational backbone to the entertainment.

Chapter-book readers should latch onto it. (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62370-033-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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