From the Robot the Robot series , Vol. 1

A book that is as helpful as its protagonist.

A robot learns how to get in touch with their own feelings and finds ways to help a lonely newcomer, a hungry extraterrestrial pet, and a pair of grown-ups with rigid views on binary gender roles.

Wheeling about the orbiting Science Outpost B-333, looking for ways to be helpful, Robot resembles R2-D2 in the very simple cartoon illustrations, though they have both a face and a habit of changing color in each chapter. They first have a comfy talk about personal reactions with Dr. Grbzl, a froglike therapist, then an amusing conversation with two scowling guards aboard a visiting spacecraft: “Are you a boy or a girl?” one asks. “No,” Robot responds. Next, learning through trial and error that a cute bunnylike creature is actually a ravening “vexzor” whose “favorite foods were scientists and crewmembers,” Robot finds an acceptable dietary substitute, and lastly they make Yuli, a new cloud person from planet Cumuli who communicates only in Cumulan Sign Language, welcome with an overture of friendship. Robot is assigned no pronoun until adopting “they” in the course of arguing with the guards. Occasional “science words” like “assessment” or “binary” are bolded and defined in a glossary at the end. Early readers have come a long way from the topics and tropes of Amelia Bedelia, and though in vocabulary these four miniepisodes stand at a relatively advanced level, emergent readers will be comfortable with both their format and their themes and messages.

A book that is as helpful as its protagonist. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-0878-7552-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Huggle Bug Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020


An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.

A child finds connection to the world all around in this Korean import.

The illustrations in this unusual picture book achieve a 3-D effect reminiscent of claymation. The opening scene shows an aerial view of a playground scattered with maple and gingko leaves; a tethered dog watches a child aiming at marbles. Accustomed to spending time alone and solitary play, Tong Tong’s fertile imagination infuses a bag of assorted spherical hard candies with powers that give voice to unlikely speakers, such as the living room sofa and Marbles the old dog, each speaking with Tong Tong to share a sentient perspective. The hard candies also channel the tough love hidden within Tong Tong’s father and Grandma’s bubbly, reassuring voice emanating from another realm. The candies’ magic reveals yet another dimension when Tong Tong is drawn outdoors to witness nature’s beauty as copious falling leaves bid farewell to the season. Through these uncanny exchanges, Tong Tong not only makes surprising discoveries, but also delves into complex emotions, celebrates a continuing relationship with Grandma, and takes courageous steps toward a tantalizing conclusion. The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective, featuring details some may find initially unsettling—along with the cryptic, open-ended narrative. That said, depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder.

An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2959-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021


From the Fantastic Frame series , Vol. 1

Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)

Two kids get up close and personal with some great works of art in this first in a new series.

Tiger Brooks is used to his little sister’s fantastical stories. So when the top-hatted orange pig she describes turns out to be not only real, but a next-door neighbor, Tiger enlists the help of his kooky new friend, Luna, to investigate. It turns out the pig works for the reclusive painter Viola Dots. Years ago a magical picture frame swallowed up her only son, and she’s searched for him in artworks ever since. When Tiger’s tinkering starts the magic up again, he and Luna are sucked into a reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s Surprised! or Tiger in a Tropical Storm, hungry predator and all. After meeting and failing to rescue Viola’s son in this adventure, the series is set up for the intrepid pair to infiltrate other classic paintings in the future. Backmatter provides information on the real Rousseau and his life. Oliver keeps the plot itself snappy and peppy. While there are few surprises, there’s also an impressive lack of lag time. This is helped in no small part by Kallis’ art, which goes from pen-and-ink drawings to full-blown color images once the kids cross over into the painting. Tiger is a white boy, and Luna is a dark-haired Latina.

Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-448-48087-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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