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

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


A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996


Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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