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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HOW I BECAME A PIRATE

Thanks to parrot-toting Braidbeard and his gloriously disreputable crew, a lad discovers the ups and downs of a pirate’s life in this rousing mini-epic. His mom and dad busy on another part of the beach, young Jeremy happily joins a band of hook-handed, eye-patched, snaggle-toothed pirates aboard their ship, learning pirate table manners (none), enjoying a game of nautical soccer until a shark eats the ball, then happily retiring without having to brush teeth, or even don pajamas. But then Jeremy learns that pirates don’t get tucked in, or get bedtime stories, and as for good night kisses—Avast! Worse yet, no one offers comfort when a storm hits. So, giving over the pirate’s life, Jeremy shows the crew where to bury its treasure (his backyard), and bids them goodbye. Shannon outfits Braidbeard’s leering, pop-eyed lot in ragged but colorful pirate dress, and gives his young ruffian-in-training a belt and bandanna to match. This isn’t likely to turn pirate wannabees into landlubbers, but it will inspire a chorus of yo-ho-hos. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-201848-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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