Opinions may differ about the story’s sublimity; here it’s been made ridiculous.

READ REVIEW

THE SELFISH GIANT

The richly sentimental 19th-century tale gets a 21st-century setting.

Poor artistic decisions stymie a worthy effort. Preserved here unaltered (though printed in teeny-tiny type), Wilde’s economically written original makes for, as ever, stately, sonorous reading, aloud or otherwise. Visually, Bowman’s eye-filling garden scenes sandwich genuinely shiver-inducing tangles of dry stalks swathed in frost and snow between, in better seasons, views of luxuriant masses of outsized flowers and greenery. The giant is a red-haired, white gent in moderately antique clothing…but the tiny children he chases away (and later welcomes back) are a racially diverse lot in school uniforms and sporting backpacks and hula hoops. Taped-up advertisements on the outside of the giant’s wall and other details further add to the understated contemporary air, and the smallest child, who comes back at the end bearing stigmata to welcome the now-elderly giant to his garden, has an unruly shock of dark hair and an olive complexion. All of this updating comes to naught, though, because with supreme disregard for the story’s essentially solemn tone and cadences, Bowman arbitrarily sticks in silly bits—first depicting Hail as a baboon with a bright red butt (the garden’s other winter residents are at least embodied as northern animals) and then in a climactic scene putting the giant into humongous footie pajamas decorated with bunnies and carrots. Talk about discordant notes.

Opinions may differ about the story’s sublimity; here it’s been made ridiculous. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64170-126-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Familius

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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