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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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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