A clever introduction to theater for young audiences or performers (and an inspiration for post-bedtime play).



Usually it is the sleepless child who invents a nocturnal story for his or her stuffed animals to enact; Boyd imagines the reverse.

The narrative employs the elements and accoutrements associated with a theatrical performance, starting with the red-and-white jacket flaps that are shaped like drawn curtains. This attention-grabbing design component echoes the protagonist’s similarly striped pajamas and is incorporated into each spread. The drapery functions as side borders on pages of varying widths—a situation that promotes turning back and forth to check on partial or complete disappearances. While Arlo’s friends—rabbit, lemur, fawn, leopard, and birds—plan the first act, the little boy falls asleep. The backdrop consists of changing scenery rendered in a controlled palette of blues or greens against white—a foil for the solid, gouache characters and an opportunity to hide extra details for observant viewers. Costumes are procured and abandoned (too itchy, etc.); props are brought out after a run-through of sound effects and actions. The noise wakes Arlo, and the curtains open in a climactic gatefold that reveals a grand sailing expedition before a sleepy denouement. As in actual productions created by a group of youngsters, the event is more about negotiations and protocols than plot, but the creative die cuts, quick pace, and winsome creatures provide an enjoyable diversion. Arlo has straight, black hair, and his skin is paper-white.

A clever introduction to theater for young audiences or performers (and an inspiration for post-bedtime play). (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5529-6

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.


Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A memorable life—a forgettable presentation.


From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Baseball’s No. 42 strikes out.

Even as a babe in his mother’s arms, Robinson is depicted wearing his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap in this latest entry in the Ordinary People Change the World series. He narrates his childhood alongside cartoon panels that show him as an expert runner and thrower. Racism and poverty are also part of his growing up, along with lessons in sharing and courage. Incredibly, the Negro Leagues are not mentioned beyond a passing reference to “a black team” with a picture of the Kansas City Monarchs next to their team bus (still looking like a child in the illustration, Robinson whines, “Gross! Is this food or goo?”). In 1946, Branch Rickey signs him to play for the Dodgers’ farm team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Robinson concludes his story with an exhortation to readers to be brave, strong and use their “power to do what’s right. / Use that power for a cause that you believe in.” Meltzer writes his inspirational biography as a first-person narrative, which risks being construed and used as an autobiography—which it is not. The digitally rendered cartoon illustrations that show Robinson as a perpetual child fall sadly short of capturing his demeanor and prowess.

A memorable life—a forgettable presentation. (photographs, timeline, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4086-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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