A book for those who see school as a prison to be escaped; this is about as strongly anti-school as a picture book gets.

NINJA BOY GOES TO SCHOOL

A young ninja shows off some skills for school.

Ninjas are good at silently rising before the sun. They are nimble and strong, with the balance of a flamingo “(but without looking silly)”—though the illustration belies this, as all the kids at the bus stop are laughing. They can be “one with their surroundings.” This last pictures the boy, in ninja black, plastered to the ceiling of the bus. Light on plot, but so far, so good. But then Wilson’s ninja takes a disturbing turn. “A ninja must be still and patient, like a deep-rooted tree….” On the left, Harrison’s vibrantly colored illustration shows the ninja sitting primly in class. But on the right, the text reads, “…and strike with the VIPER’S speed when the time is right for disappearing.” The ninja is now sneaking out the classroom window while the teacher’s back is turned. The verso reveals “A ninja’s spirit is never caged.” Freedom is not long-lived, as the teacher catches up to the ninja on the playground, and the principal sends him home, with seriously angry looks all around. His parents put away his ninja things, but regardless, the boy knows he is a ninja, as his shadow proudly reflects. Other poor examples include the precarious stack he climbs to reach the “ninja stuf” and the gray-haired granny bus driver sporting earbuds.

A book for those who see school as a prison to be escaped; this is about as strongly anti-school as a picture book gets. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-375-86584-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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A subtle tale, perhaps best read to a thoughtful child in the intimate setting of a winter bedtime.

WINTER MOON SONG

Quiet but joyful, this is an original story based on a traditional theme found in many cultures.

The author’s note mentions that in some Native American cultures, as well as in China, Korea and Japan, the trope of the rabbit in the moon is well-known. Brooks learned about it from a Lakota elder and then spun her own tale. A young rabbit in a northern clime learns the “Winter Moon Song.” On his way home from rehearsal for the annual performance, he stops in the woods and looks up at the image of the “rabbit-in-the-moon” and remembers the story, told by his mother, of love and sacrifice binding together the Great Mother, Creator Rabbit (imagined by Brooks), and one of her earthly creations, a little rabbit. The song continues to honor this story and is meant to “lighten the darkest month of the year with a trail of magic.” Yet the new singer is not satisfied with the performance. Instead of the churchlike place with candlelight where the rabbits gather, he starts to sing right under the moon, “with the rabbit pattern clearly visible,” beginning a new tradition. The soft watercolors, in subdued gray and deep blue, with some contrasting warm brown and golden shades, set a tranquil tone.

A subtle tale, perhaps best read to a thoughtful child in the intimate setting of a winter bedtime. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-320-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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Preachy but cheerful.

SWIM BARK RUN

Three canine friends encourage one another to complete a dog-oriented triathlon.

Daisy, a little bulldog, enjoys watching her owners compete in triathlons in which they swim, ride bikes, and then run. After one such race, Daisy, eager to be in one herself, decides to create a triathlon for her doggy friends and invites dachshund Rascal, Dalmatian Hobie, and corgi Atticus to participate. Following the human version, the dogs will swim across a pond, skateboard on the sidewalk around the pond, and finally run on the wooded trail through their favorite park to the finish line. When the race’s course becomes increasingly difficult, they cheer one another on to give it their all. Daisy approaches her final big hill and almost gives in to her fatigue, climbing slowly until she is greeted by Brian, one of her owners (depicted as a white man), standing at the top, which gives her confidence to finish. With announcer Rascal’s enthusiastic affirmation—“Swim, bark, run! Did everyone have fun?”—Daisy realizes that the enjoyment of a triathlon is about setting and accomplishing goals at one’s pace. The writing is pedestrian at best, and the illustrations don’t always work with the text (one dog character is introduced visually pages before the text mentions her, for instance). Still, the affable, animation-style cartoons in verdant spring colors brighten the overall message of dogged perseverance with the aid of friendship and teamwork.

Preachy but cheerful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2696-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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