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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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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