MISS SMITH READS AGAIN!

The second-grade teacher with the fiery orange brush cut and leather jacket introduced in Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook (2003) returns, opening her magical volume to transform the classroom into Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World. Thrills ensue, as the class meets some of the characters, evades a tyrannosaurus, rescues Miss Smith from a pterodactyl’s nest and then, despite having broken the cardinal rule not to interfere with the storyline, returns to the present. In what reads like an editing error, readers are told twice that the children have escaped the toothy predator, and the relationship between Doyle’s tale and this one is perfunctory at best. Still, the combination of dinosaurs, exciting adventures and a decidedly unconventional teacher who literally brings her lessons to life traverses familiar territory for Magic School Bus fans, and the glossy, elaborately detailed illustrations are another draw. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-525-47722-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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Formulaic but not stale…even if it does mine previous topical material rather than expand it.

HOW DO DINOSAURS SHOW GOOD MANNERS?

From the How Do Dinosaurs…? series

A guide to better behavior—at home, on the playground, in class, and in the library.

Serving as a sort of overview for the series’ 12 previous exercises in behavior modeling, this latest outing opens with a set of badly behaving dinos, identified in an endpaper key and also inconspicuously in situ. Per series formula, these are paired to leading questions like “Does she spit out her broccoli onto the floor? / Does he shout ‘I hate meat loaf!’ while slamming the door?” (Choruses of “NO!” from young audiences are welcome.) Midway through, the tone changes (“No, dinosaurs don’t”), and good examples follow to the tune of positive declarative sentences: “They wipe up the tables and vacuum the floors. / They share all the books and they never slam doors,” etc. Teague’s customary, humongous prehistoric crew, all depicted in exact detail and with wildly flashy coloration, fill both their spreads and their human-scale scenes as their human parents—no same-sex couples but some are racially mixed, and in one the man’s the cook—join a similarly diverse set of sibs and other children in either disapprobation or approving smiles. All in all, it’s a well-tested mix of oblique and prescriptive approaches to proper behavior as well as a lighthearted way to play up the use of “please,” “thank you,” and even “I’ll help when you’re hurt.”

Formulaic but not stale…even if it does mine previous topical material rather than expand it. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-36334-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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