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

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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A DOG NAMED SAM

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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THE NAME JAR

Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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