UNCLE FRANK'S PIT

McElligott (The Truth About Cousin Ernie’s Head, 1996) finds inspiration in Uncle Frank, an amiable old codger who is full of cockamamie ideas and immune to suggestions that he’s worn out his welcome. Uncle Frank answers an invitation to drop in on his relatives: “ ‘I can only stay a few hours,’ said Uncle Frank. . . . A month later, he was still with us.” A scientist/inventor with a shock of white hair to make Einstein proud, and one card shy of a deck, Uncle Frank believes that dinosaur bones are buried in the backyard and starts to dig—and dig and dig. As the young narrator’s father becomes increasingly vexed, Uncle Frank changes his mind and keeps digging, first for oil and then for buried treasure. His hole in the ground begins to resemble a full-service apartment, and he orders a hot tub to make it homier yet. At the climactic moment when the narrator’s father has had enough and Uncle Frank is about to be evicted, treasure is struck: an Easter Island—like statue that resembles Uncle Frank (who hastens off to his next adventure). This is a good-time, goofy story, without deep meanings or hidden agendas. The illustrations, chock full of color and shadow, have the fuzzy quality of low-tech computer artwork. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-87737-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and...

THE LITTLE RED PEN

Obviously inspired by "The Little Red Hen," this goes beyond the foundation tale's basic moral about work ethic to explore problem solving, teamwork and doing one’s best.

Nighttime at school brings the Little Red Pen out of the drawer to correct papers, usually aided by other common school supplies. But not this time. Too afraid of being broken, worn out, dull, lost or, worst of all, put in the “Pit of No Return” (aka trash), they hide in the drawer despite the Little Red Pen’s insistence that the world will end if the papers do not get corrected. But even with her drive she cannot do it all herself—her efforts send her to the Pit. It takes the ingenuity and cooperation of every desk supply to accomplish her rescue and to get all the papers graded, thereby saving the world. The authors work in lots of clever wordplay that will appeal to adult readers, as will the spicy character of Chincheta, the Mexican pushpin. Stevens’ delightfully expressive desk supplies were created with paint, ink and plenty of real school supplies. Without a doubt, she has captured their true personalities: the buck-toothed stapler, bespectacled scissors and rather empty-headed eraser.

Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and students may take a second glance at that innocuous-looking red pen on the teacher’s desk. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-15-206432-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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