A unique take on the Romeo and Juliet theme with appealing cartoon mosquitos, but its text will likely confuse young readers...

Skeeter

Screenwriter Lannini (Letters to My Angels, Wikki and Blue, 2014) tackles a timeless tale of star-crossed lovers as a mosquito who can turn into a human tries to make peace between her human lover and mosquito family in this screenplaylike children’s picture-book debut.

Mosquito general Tazzi and his wife, Heeleen—the village’s greatest warrior—are delighted to welcome their daughter, Skeeter, into the world. But after a storm, they’re shocked to find that their child has been replaced by a human baby. They soon discover that Skeeter changes into a human girl during hot, dry weather. As an adult, she’s still fascinated by the human side of her nature, and during a period of exploring life as a human, she falls in love with a man named Martin. Later, as a mosquito, she bites her human rival for Martin’s affections, and she tries to convince her parents that she’s as much a human as she is one of their kind. At first, Martin seems to take her condition in stride, but then he decides that he can’t marry a part-time human, leaving Skeeter heartbroken. However, when a group of humans threatens Skeeter’s village, Martin comes through to help save them. The premise of this book is more about identity politics than romance: Skeeter’s desire to become permanently human is certainly driven by her love, but her quest to understand both sides of her nature—and make peace between humans and mosquitos—is also a strong theme. The book’s format leaves much to be desired, though, as it’s more like a storyboard for an animated feature than a simple picture book. The illustrations, with their stylized mosquitos and fun shrinking and growing effects, stand on their own, but the text seems like a synopsis with dialogue added: “In DR. GEEZE’s lab. SKEETER: DR. GEEZE, I want to tell you a secret…I think I’m in love. GEEZE: In love? With whom?” The text is also oddly formatted around the illustrations, sometimes in two or three columns, in order to fit on the pages.

A unique take on the Romeo and Juliet theme with appealing cartoon mosquitos, but its text will likely confuse young readers who are unfamiliar with storyboards and screenplays.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5049-5347-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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