A decent storyline and better-than-decent art show good intentions—but different ones, which find few if any points of...

SPACE TRAIN

A child and his grandma join forces to restore a very special train.

Lonely Jakob is excited to find a battered old rocket in his space station’s hangar, but his grandma is over the moon. “It’s the SPACE TRAIN!” she crows—recalling how in her youth it “crisscrossed the universe on tracks of stardust,” so fast “it made the stars look like streaks in the sky.” Putting their heads together, and with help from Jakob’s robo-chicken, Derek, and the crotchety, work-shy ToolBot, the two labor to restore the hulk…blasting off at last in search of new worlds and, Jakob hopes, new friends. Worthy though this intergenerational plot may be, it wastes a set of spectacular illustrations. Mountford depicts his space-dwelling duo, both brown-skinned and with wild mops of almost luminescent blue (Jakob) or lavender (Grandma) hair, transforming a dim and dusty relic into a breathtaking, bright-orange behemoth with dramatically rakish lines. Views of the angular vessel arrowing through dramatic starscapes or, in one fondly remembered glimpse inside, abrim with a wildly diverse array of nonhuman passengers offer heady promise of interstellar encounters and exotic ports of call. Alas, despite traces of lyrical language in the narrative, that larger promise remains disappointingly unfulfilled.

A decent storyline and better-than-decent art show good intentions—but different ones, which find few if any points of connection. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-158-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A story of friendship that is both lively and lovely

KONDO & KEZUMI VISIT GIANT ISLAND

From the Kondo & Kezumi series , Vol. 1

Two friends embark upon a high-seas adventure.

Kondo, a large lemon-colored creature with wide round eyes, spends his day on his island home with his best friend, tangerine-hued Kezumi. Together, they frolic on their idyllic isle picking berries (tall Kondo nabs the higher fruit while Kezumi helps to retrieve the lower) while surrounded by tiny “flitter-birds” and round “fluffle-bunnies.” One day, Kezumi finds a map in a bottle that declares “WE ARE NOT ALONE.” Inspired by visions of a larger world, Kondo and Kezumi fashion a boat from a bathtub and set sail. The pair visits fantastical islands—deliciously cheese-laden Dairy Isle, the fiery and fearsome Fireskull Island—until they eventually settle upon the titular Giant Island, where they meet Albert, a gigantic gray talking mountain who is—obviously—unable to leave. Enthralled by his new friends, Albert wants them to stay forever. After Albert makes a fraught decision, Kondo and Kezumi find themselves at a crossroads and must confront their new friend. Goodner and Tsurumi’s brightly illustrated chapter book should find favor with fans of Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s similarly designed Mercy Watson series. Short, wry, descriptive sentences make for an equally enjoyable experience whether read aloud or independently. Episodic chapters move the action along jauntily; the conclusion is somewhat abrupt, but it promises more exploration and adventures for the best friends. (This review was originally published in the June 1, 2019, issue. The book data has been updated to reflect changes in publisher and date of publication.)

A story of friendship that is both lively and lovely (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02577-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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