Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Ripe with puns, this tale turns on the question.

In word bubbles, an off-page child converses with a bevy of colorful, anthropomorphized foodstuffs while putting the produce away: “How’s everyone doing?” Lemon’s “Full of zest.” Strawberry says, “I was jammed in that bag.” When the tomato tries to climb into the fruit bowl, everyone questions his right. Tomato then lectures those assembled: Fruits develop from flowers, while veggies might be leaves, stems (asparagus), petals (artichokes, anyone?), or roots. He produces a wacky X-ray showing not only his seeds, but the bones of his skinny arms and legs. Each fruit and vegetable in Hoffmann’s digitally composed, hand-lettered gouache pictures sports simple facial features and sticklike limbs. The male tomato and “Old Man Produce”—a wizened prune with bushy gray brows—are explicitly gendered, while a lemon and pepper have full lips and eyelashes, implying they are female. The Old Man delivers a rambling, Zen-like speech that muddies the already-sketchy science. With their new knowledge, a pepper, bean, eggplant, cuke, avocado, snow pea, and yellow squash line up to climb the fruit bowl’s ladder. Hoffmann’s premise is a bit shaky. Some veggies are typically unrefrigerated (think potatoes), some fruits are regularly kept chilled, and many of those newly ensconced denizens of this fruit bowl (from peppers to squash) keep better in the fridge.

Inessential. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1991-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A straightforward tale of conflict and reconciliation for newly emergent readers? Not exactly, which raises it above the...


In this deceptively spare, very beginning reader, a girl assembles a robot and then treats it like a slave until it goes on strike.

Having put the robot together from a jumble of loose parts, the budding engineer issues an increasingly peremptory series of rhymed orders— “Throw, Bot. / Row, Bot”—that turn from playful activities like chasing bubbles in the yard to tasks like hoeing the garden, mowing the lawn and towing her around in a wagon. Jung crafts a robot with riveted edges, big googly eyes and a smile that turns down in stages to a scowl as the work is piled on. At last, the exhausted robot plops itself down, then in response to its tormentor’s angry “Don’t say no, Bot!” stomps off in a huff. In one to four spacious, sequential panels per spread, Jung develops both the plotline and the emotional conflict using smoothly modeled cartoon figures against monochromatic or minimally detailed backgrounds. The child’s commands, confined in small dialogue balloons, are rhymed until her repentant “Come on home, Bot” breaks the pattern but leads to a more equitable division of labor at the end.

A straightforward tale of conflict and reconciliation for newly emergent readers? Not exactly, which raises it above the rest. (Easy reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87083-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.


Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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