With very careful repeat reads, this challenging tale may pay off, especially if readers choose to put on a play of their...

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FRANKENCRAYON

Personified crayons and a pencil, thespians all, re-enact the cancellation of their book, while Hall fills his story within a story with intrigue, theater, and a whole lot of silly.

An “official notice” greets readers, urging them to abandon this book, while a cancellation stamp mars the title page. When the cast-member crayons realize a reader is turning the page, the pencil breaks the fourth wall and starts to recount what went wrong with their production of Frankencrayon. It began at rehearsal, with a mysterious scribble, which the crayons try to erase but only make bigger. When the play is canceled, three crayons help the scribble to independence by drawing feet and a face. Reflecting on these events, the crayons and pencil realize lessons learned (“Even a messy scribble can be a lovely thing”), and all ends well...until: “Screeeeeetch!” The villain behind the scribble is revealed! Hall, as usual, plays with both narrative and its visual representation. The illustrations are compelling, with cut-paper crayons and a variety of textures and typefaces. However, the stretch to innovate and interact leads to a story composed of many varied parts, which often complicate rather than clarify. And while different types help identify which character is speaking (and when), the textual busyness on top of this visually reductive story can be confusing.

With very careful repeat reads, this challenging tale may pay off, especially if readers choose to put on a play of their own. (dramatis personae) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-225211-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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