NIT-PICKIN’

Though perhaps not particularly amusing to children (or their parents) who have actually battled the little scalp-suckers, this bouncy-jouncy plaint at least attempts to put a comical spin on the experience. “I was scritcha-scratchin’ / while a batch-a bugs / was hatchin’, / yes, those cooties were / attachin’ to my head,” moans the red-haired young narrator. Unfortunately, everyone in her extended family has a remedy—from Gramma’s mayonnaise cure to Mama’s plastic wrap, from Gramps’s kerosene concoction to (at last) the dog’s tube of special shampoo. Above the cartoon scenes of bedraggled country characters stomping ferociously about, Booth runs a thin continuous strip showing little bugs parachuting down to a seemingly forested cranial landscape, hatching in droves in a “nit picknic area” and wading through various sorts of gloop. Closing with a view of a nit graveyard thick with tombstones bearing legends like “Here lies Itty-Bitty Nitty, Jr.”, this kneeslapper makes a suitable alternative where Miriam Moss’s Scritch Scratch (2001) has already been picked out. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-689-83898-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

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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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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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While simplistic, it’s a serviceable starter for discussions of spectrum disorders with younger neurotypical audiences.

ISAAC AND HIS AMAZING ASPERGER SUPERPOWERS!

Isaac explains why he wears a mask and cape and sometimes has special needs.

Packaged between rainbow-striped endpapers, this purposeful monologue offers a mix of positive takes—“I’ve got special superpowers that make me slightly different from my brother and the other kids at school”—and coping strategies. Among these latter are looking at foreheads rather than directly at eyes, which makes him “feel scared,” and keeping personal comments “inside my head so that I don’t upset people.” In the big, simple illustrations, Walsh gives Isaac uniformly smiling pets and peers for company, and she shows him less than cheerful only once, when the buzzing of fluorescent lights “makes my ears really hurt.” At the end he explains that he has Asperger’s, “which is a kind of autism,” and closes by affirming that his brother understands him, “and now you do too!” That may be overstating the case, but Isaac comes off as less inscrutable than the children in Gail Watts’ Kevin Thinks (2012) or Davene Fahy and Carol Inouye’s Anthony Best (2013). That the book is aimed not at children on the spectrum but at their peers is made explicit in a jacket-flap note from the author, whose son has Asperger’s.

While simplistic, it’s a serviceable starter for discussions of spectrum disorders with younger neurotypical audiences. (URL list) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8121-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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