A children’s book that may have trouble finding an audience due to its strange premise, huge cast, and clunky writing.

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ZHANE THE BOY TRAIN

A boy is struck by lightning, makes a wish, and is magically transformed in this lengthy picture-book debut.

Zhane Sparks and his friends win a basketball tournament against their rivals, a team of bullies. Zhane credits his big brother and his lucky toy train for helping them to victory. Showing their team spirit and good sportsmanship, the boys and their coach congratulate the other team for a game well played. As Zhane and his pals head to Zhane’s house to celebrate, he’s struck by lightning. Despite the rainstorm, he spots a shooting star and wishes not to die; in the next moment, he’s magically transformed into a train with a boy’s head and arms. Zhane’s friends and family—as well as a scientist, who is only briefly introduced—get inside the train, where they meet a robot assigned to assist Zhane on a quest. As it turns out, Zhane must collect at least 25 objects from various locations that the scientist will use to make a formula to turn him back into a boy. Although there are numerous illustrations in this book, the dense text makes it more appropriate for readers who are just starting to pick up chapter books. The huge cast makes it difficult to keep the various characters straight, especially as Zhane’s friends have very few details to identify them and match them to the illustrations. Yami’s cartoonlike color artwork features a diverse array of people in a Baltimore setting. Some images, however, don’t match the tone of the text; one, in which Zhane is struck by lightning, shows him simultaneously smiling up at the sky. Readers may also be frustrated that the rivalry between the two basketball teams is quickly abandoned, and the stilted prose (“The news reporter made it to the center of the circle....He puts the microphone to Coach Bennett’s mouth”) is likely to confuse beginning readers.

A children’s book that may have trouble finding an audience due to its strange premise, huge cast, and clunky writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5332-1620-5

Page Count: 104

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2020

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IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT

A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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