THE DIGGERS

For those unfamiliar with Brown's 1960 work, illustrated by Clement Hurd originally and welcomed in these pages, it is a book in verse—half of it rhymed, half not—about digging. The first pages, devoted to animal and human diggers, are written in a simple, repetitive style, like children's counting games. The text then shifts into a more elevated mode, as an unstoppable steam shovel moves from city to country and through a mountain, building a railroad. This steam shovel is the hero of the story, and the moral is: There's nothing it can't do. Both the industrial theme and its heroic overtones ("And then came the big digger made by a man...") are reminiscent of socialist realism. Kirk's oil illustrations, in perfect balance with the text, follow a parallel development, beginning with close-ups of toy-like animals, and moving to anonymous workers in sweeping landscapes. These landscapes—multi-colored and painstakingly detailed—take in an enormous amount of geography in the background, while the steam shovel or the train in the foreground reach gigantic proportions. However, their epic breadth—of man's building abilities and the unlimited possibilities of the future—has a distinctive softness, both in the shapes and colors used. It is technology with a human face in this utterly modern revisitation of a classic—even as it blithely bypasses ecological concerns. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-7868-0006-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Who ya gonna call? A different snowplow book.

SCOOPER AND DUMPER

Friends don’t let friends expire in snowdrifts.

Convoluted storytelling and confusing art turn a cute premise into a mishmash of a book. Scooper’s a front loader that works in the town salt yard, replenishing the snowplows that arrive. Dumper’s her best friend, more than happy to plow and salt the roads himself. When the big city calls in Dumper to help with a snow squall, he brushes off Scooper’s concerns. Yet slippery roads and a seven-vehicle pileup launch poor Dumper onto his side in a snowbank. Can Scooper overcome fears that she’s too slow and save the day? Following a plot as succinct as this should be a breeze, but the rhyming text obfuscates more than it clarifies. Lines such as, “Dumper’s here— / let’s rock ’n’ roll! / Big city’s callin’ for / some small-town soul” can prove impenetrable. The art of the book matches this confusion, with light-blue Dumper often hard to pick out among other, similarly colored vehicles, particularly in the snowstorm. Speech bubbles, as when the city calls for Scooper’s and Dumper’s help, lead to a great deal of visual confusion. Scooper is also featured sporting long eyelashes and a bow, lest anyone mistake the dithering, frightened truck as anything but female. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16.8% of actual size.)

Who ya gonna call? A different snowplow book. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9268-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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