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BUG IN A VACUUM

Another funny, visually rollicking work from the creator of Chester (2007) and Scaredy Squirrel (2006). (Picture book. 4-8)

A bug flies indoors, is sucked into a vacuum, and experiences the five stages of grief while entrapped.

The narrative plays it straight, but the double-page spreads—over 40 of them—tell a far livelier story. When the fly’s first imprisoned amid thick dust and sucked-up detritus, it denies and deflects: “Doesn’t get much cozier than this… / Can’t wait to tell my friends about this place!” Watt, formerly in advertising, packages each successively introduced stage as a product. “Bargaining” is a box of laundry detergent, while “Anger” is a retro-looking TV dinner. She includes a clever, visually parallel story about the household’s dachshund, whose favorite toy, a knitted, button-eyed dog, suffers the same fate as the bug. As the highly dramatic insect emotes through the five stages, using the bits and pieces it’s been sucked up with as imaginative props, the dog experiences them silently. In the “Anger” section, as the fly creates a ruckus inside, the dog attacks the vacuum, seeking his toy’s liberation. The “Acceptance” phase coincides with the discarding of the now-busted machine at the dump. There, the toy is regurgitated, and the fly emerges through the proverbial tunnel of light. A final spread shows the dog cavorting with a new canine acquaintance, while above, its former toy warms a bird’s nest of eggs.

Another funny, visually rollicking work from the creator of Chester (2007) and Scaredy Squirrel (2006). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77049-645-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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GRUMPY MONKEY

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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