THE NUMBERLYS

Still—a marvelous visual, if not tactile, experience.

A fanciful take on the invention of the alphabet, more a video than a full-featured app but through the roof for production values.

The setting seems right out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and is depicted with the accomplished 3-D modeling and monochrome gray tones of Chris Van Allsburg’s pencil work. Goose-stepping hordes of small, peglike Numberlys stamp out lines of digits in a gargantuan factory amid huge shadows and gear wheels. One night, five vaguely dissatisfied workers stay behind and with mighty efforts hammer out an alphabet letter by letter that, when released the next morning, flies out into the world to introduce both words and color to the stunned masses. Readers can help them through a limited variety of touch-controlled trampoline, pinball and dexterity games. Aside from the games, there are no interactive elements in the visuals, but smoothly animated movements and scene changes aplenty keep the characters and plot tumbling along. Read, optionally, by a narrator with an exaggerated German accent, the sparse text appears on separate screens and runs to witty lines like “Now, what could the next letter…be?” Directional arrows at the bottom of each screen, plus a rotating main-menu index, allow rapid back-and-forth–ing. The art’s sophistication isn’t quite matched by the attention to technical detail, as toggling the melodramatic background music off also cuts out all of the nongame sound effects.

Still—a marvelous visual, if not tactile, experience. (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: MoonBot Studios

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

JOE LOUIS, MY CHAMPION

One of the watershed moments in African-American history—the defeat of James Braddock at the hands of Joe Louis—is here given an earnest picture-book treatment. Despite his lack of athletic ability, Sammy wants desperately to be a great boxer, like his hero, getting boxing lessons from his friend Ernie in exchange for help with schoolwork. However hard he tries, though, Sammy just can’t box, and his father comforts him, reminding him that he doesn’t need to box: Joe Louis has shown him that he “can be the champion at anything [he] want[s].” The high point of this offering is the big fight itself, everyone crowded around the radio in Mister Jake’s general store, the imagined fight scenes played out in soft-edged sepia frames. The main story, however, is so bent on providing Sammy and the reader with object lessons that all subtlety is lost, as Mister Jake, Sammy’s father, and even Ernie hammer home the message. Both text and oil-on-canvas-paper illustrations go for the obvious angle, making the effort as a whole worthy, but just a little too heavy-handed. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58430-161-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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