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

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 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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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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