This book requires two or more readers—the more participants, the merrier.

Board games, much like playtimes, take two or more players to make everything go right.

Schoolkids need a helping hand as they move from solo to social play—especially in a screen-oriented world—and McElligott here guides them along. Illustrated in a game board–style layout and written in the imperative style of game instructions, this clever book externalizes kids’ worst playtime impulses in the form of literal monsters. Readers first encounter a small child laden with a big, multicolored game box. When the family’s gray terrier wanders out of the room, the kid lets a pink, furred monster in through the window to serve as a substitute playmate. Things begin well enough, but, as a crowd of monsters accumulates and overwhelms the protagonist, the loyal pup returns to scare them off. Unfortunately, the furry fiends abscond with the game board, then refuse to give it back. Undaunted, the enterprising kid handcrafts a decoy game that distracts the thieving horde with explicitly naughty directives—throwing pieces, munching the board, and so on—enabling the retrieval of the board. Once the monsters realize good fun is contingent on good sportsmanship, they apologize and rejoin the game. By the amicable ending, readers have discovered the basics of fair play: abiding by the rules, waiting your turn, respecting your competitors, winning (and losing!) gracefully, and, per the titular mandate, abstaining from conspicuous consumption.

This book requires two or more readers—the more participants, the merrier. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6723-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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