THE CAT WHO INVENTED BEBOP

Arisman crafts a nuanced story depicting (literally and figuratively) a sax-playing, Delta-born cat named Stringbean McCoy. After apprenticing to a street blues guitarist, Stringbean heads to New York City. Sitting in with a house band, he knows he needs to ante up to earn the musicians’ respect. Daringly, he slips off his shoes and, while front paws play the band’s tune, his hind paws play “Mississippi Blues.” Stringbean’s innovations electrify the room. Arisman riffs playfully on notions of “cool” and “square” cats—the latter receive cubist treatments amid the hipper denizens of the NYC scene. The milk-sipping, humanoid cats (plus occasional dogs and monkeys) move within Expressionist cityscapes. Bright interiors of red and yellow spill against the street’s blue-grays. While the text snappily conveys the vibrancy of bebop, the design poorly serves both words and pictures. The font is tiny, the leading too wide. The layout is all over the place: Spots, gratuitous, colored borders, full-bleed double spreads, three-quarter spreads and the occasional, arbitrary use of matte silver paper jostle incoherently, subverting Arisman’s intriguing visual metaphors and well-tuned ear for his subject. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56846-152-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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DANCING IN THE WINGS

Dancer-choreographer Allen (of Fame fame) joins forces again with Nelson (Big Jabe, p. 565) in their second dance-themed picture book, following Brothers of the Knight (1999). Sassy is a tall African-American girl of middle-school age, a serious ballet student with extra-long legs, extra-big feet, and an extra-sassy manner of speaking that earned her the unusual nickname. She bickers with her brother, trading mean-spirited insults about his big head and her big feet, and snaps out sassy retorts to snide comments from her teacher and the more petite dancers in her ballet classes. Because of her height, Sassy is not allowed to participate in her school’s dance recitals—a most unlikely situation at any ballet school in the US. Despite this lack of performing experience (and despite wearing a non-regulation, sunshine-yellow leotard to the audition with a strict Russian ballet master), Sassy wins a competition to attend a summer dance program in Washington, D.C. She finally finds her way into the spotlight there, dancing with a boy who is taller than even she is. Some of Nelson’s illustrations would have benefited from tighter art direction: the height of the Russian ballet master seems variable from page to page and the dance shoes and positions of the feet are sometimes not quite correct. Despite these minor flaws, Sassy is an appealing girl with attitude who learns to accept her less-than-perfect physical features and make the best of her talents. Little girls who long for pretty tutus and pointe shoes of their own will like this sassy lassie. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8037-2501-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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