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From the Inside Scouts series , Vol. 1

Mostly purpose driven but with enough light touches to maintain the flow.

In this STEM-centric series kickoff, young rescue workers shrink down to microscopic size to repair a lion’s leaky heart valve.

Aimed at fledgling readers, this first episode sends young Viv and Sanjay into an ailing lion’s circulatory system to discuss the heart’s general functions while taping up a torn cardiac valve. Despite its stilted dialogue—“The lion needs our help.” “We will help the lion!”—the tale has a lively cast. Along with enjoying the interior exploits of these fantastic voyagers, audiences will have effortlessly absorbed a modest but fundamentally sound quantity of anatomical information by the time the two are sneezed out in globs of lion slime to regain their normal sizes. Mahaney follows suit by kitting Viv and Sanjay out in cool techno-suits with octopuslike robotic arms, while tucking several extremely simplified diagrams of a four-chambered heart and its surrounds into the blocky, pastel-hued cartoon illustrations. Viv’s and Sanjay’s faces are drawn with lighter and darker shades of brown. Sound messages are imparted, though they’re a bit heavy-handed: The lion exhibits “kindness” by playing with lion cubs (and, to be sure, by not eating his rescuers); following an appended summary of heart facts, Ruths invites readers to create an "I am kind" badge and to also "make someone else's day a little better" by doing a kind act. (This review was updated for factual accuracy.)

Mostly purpose driven but with enough light touches to maintain the flow. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781338894998

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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From the Press Start! series , Vol. 1

A strong series start.

In a video game, a superpowered rabbit must rescue a singing dog that brings everyone happiness.

In the frame story, a brown-skinned human protagonist plays a video game on a handheld console evocative of the classic Nintendo Gameboy. The bulk of the book relates the game’s storyline: Animal Town is a peaceful place where everyone is delighted by Singing Dog, until the fun-hating King Viking (whose black-mustachioed, pink-skinned looks reference the Super Mario Brothers game series villain, Wario) uses his army of robots to abduct Singing Dog. To save Singing Dog—and fun—the animals send the fastest among them, Simon the Hedgehog, to get Super Rabbit Boy (who gains speed and jumping powers by eating special carrots) to save the day. The chapters take Super Rabbit Boy through video game levels, with classic, video game–style settings and enemies. Throughout the book, when the game’s player loses either a life in the game or the game entirely, the unnamed kid must choose to persevere and not give up. The storylines are differentiated by colorful art styles—cartoonish for the real world, 8-bit pixel-sprite–style for the game. The fast, repetitive plot uses basic, simple sentences and child-friendly objects of interest, such as lakes of lava, for children working on reading independence, while the nerdy in-jokes benefit adults reading with a child.

A strong series start. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03472-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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From the I Like To Read Comics series

Fast and furious action guaranteed to keep new readers laughing and turning pages.

Never underestimate the chaotic fun that magic and an angry bouncing ball can create.

When Frog goes to the library, he borrows a book on magic. He then heads to a nearby park to read up on the skills necessary to becoming “a great magician.” Suddenly, a deflated yellow ball lands with a “Thud!” at his feet. Although he flexes his new magician muscles, Frog’s spells fall as flat as the ball. But when Frog shouts “Phooey!” and kicks the ball away, it inflates to become a big, angry ball. The ball begins to chase Frog, so he seeks shelter in the library—and Frog and ball turn the library’s usual calm into chaos. The cartoon chase crescendos. The ball bounces into the middle of a game of chess, interrupts a puppet show, and crashes into walls and bookcases. Staying just one bounce ahead, Frog runs, hides, grabs a ride on a book cart, and scatters books and papers as he slides across the library furniture before an alligator patron catches the ball and kicks it out the library door. But that’s not the end of the ball….Caple’s tidy panels and pastel-hued cartoons make a surprisingly effective setting for the slapstick, which should have young readers giggling. Simple sentences—often just subject and verb—with lots of repetition propel the action. Frog’s nonsense-word spells (“Poof Wiffle, Bop Bip!”) are both funny and excellent practice in phonetics. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Fast and furious action guaranteed to keep new readers laughing and turning pages. (Graphic early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4341-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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