THE TURN-AROUND, UPSIDE-DOWN ALPHABET BOOK

Ernst, known for funny watercolors and fractured fairy tales, makes a startling departure from her norm in this design-heavy alphabet book. As the title promises, readers will be rotating the book to see how the brightly colored cut-paper letters change with each 90-degree turn. Each letter is set into a black-bordered square against a harmonizing negative space; the hand-lettered text appears in white, turning as needed along the border. The narrative itself imagines the secret lives the letters yearn for, as “B masquerades as / a pair of goggles, / half a butterfly, / two windows in a castle tower.” On any given page, the image may be created by the letter itself or by the negative space surrounding it, so the interstices between the legs of an E become an electric plug, or (in a moment of great inspiration) the yellow triangles formed by a green N become “two tortilla chips headed for guacamole.” The act of turning the book 104 times in all (4 X 26) can become tedious, but the novel concept freshens up the canon of abecedaries. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85685-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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PERFECT SQUARE

The volume, like its subject, is a perfect square, welcoming readers into a colorful, geometric romp. Opposite a shiny red page with white type sits “a perfect [red] square. It had four matching corners and four equal sides.” On the next page, the square wears a smile, because it is “perfectly happy.” On Monday, though, the square is no longer square; someone has cut it up and had at it with a hole puncher, so those shapes arrange themselves into a fountain (with red dots as water). On Tuesday, the square is torn into orange shapes and becomes a garden with the addition of a few well-placed lines. Wednesday’s green shreds become a park, Friday’s blue ribbons turn into a river. Each day, the brilliant colors change, and the square is torn, crumpled or cut. The artist adds lines—making fish, clouds, etc.—that enable readers to see the new creation. The simple language is as perfect as the initial square. Hall’s acrylic monotypes make each iteration slightly different in texture and color, so the whole is a visual feast. The entire week comes together in a “This is the house that Jack built” way at the end, when on Sunday the square becomes a window onto all that was made. Young readers will absorb the visual lessons effortlessly and with delight. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-191513-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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NOT A STICK

In a near carbon copy of her debut (Not a Box, 2006), Portis brings to life the imaginative properties inherent in an average stick. As a small pig plays blithely with its new toy, an omnipresent narrator questions and warns the animal about the wisdom of waving about the large pointy object. The pig, for its part, repeats again and again its insistence that this is not a stick. Dark blue lines allow readers to imagine—along with the animal—several feats of derring-do and wonder accomplished with the stick-turned-fishing rod/marching baton/cowboy’s pony, etc. At the end, the pig triumphantly names its toy a “Not-a-Stick” and leads an imaginary dragon off in triumph. Accusations of Portis copycatting her original book are almost irrelevant in the face of this book’s cheer. Certainly one hopes that she will someday find a new format for her creative drive, but at least this sequel has enough charm and understated pizzazz to allow its creator to work her magic one more time. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-112325-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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