EARTH TO CLUNK

The boy in Smallcomb’s story starts as a put-upon grouchypants but slowly turns over the course of a pen-pal correspondence.

When his teacher tells him to write to his pen pal, he’s all grumps: “I don’t want a pen pal named Clunk from the planet Quazar.” He completes the assignment by sending his bratty older sister along with the letter. Clunk sends back a Zoid. The boy fires back with his dirty socks (a welder’s helmet and tongs are necessary to handle them, all part of Berger’s bright, sunny interpretations of the story’s brooding crankiness.) Clunk posts three Forps (“Forps smell like dog food”). Things escalate until the boy’s mother demands his sister’s return. Clunk takes a while to respond—the note has been sent in a box full of moldering lasagna—and the boy realizes how much he has enjoyed the skirmishing with Clunk. This tale scales no new heights of much anything, but there is no denying the pleasure of its dry, matter-of-fact delivery: “I got a package from Clunk today! Inside is a disgusting glob of something. And my big sister.” And Berger’s artwork, with its Southern California–bungalow cheeriness, has a wonderful way of turning the story’s gravity in on itself, then stirring the ingredients into broad, spirited humor. Rarely have school letter-writing exercises been so much fun. (Picture book. 4-8)  

 

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3439-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference.

SOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ

From the Questioneers series

Sofia Valdez proves that community organizers of any age can have a positive impact.

After a trash-heap eyesore causes an injury to her beloved abuelo, Sofia springs into action to bring big change to her neighborhood. The simple rhymes of the text follow Sofia on her journey from problem through ideas to action as she garners community support for an idyllic new park to replace the dangerous junk pile. When bureaucracy threatens to quash Sofia’s nascent plan, she digs deep and reflects that “being brave means doing the thing you must do, / though your heart cracks with fear. / Though you’re just in Grade Two.” Sofia’s courage yields big results and inspires those around her to lend a hand. Implied Latinx, Sofia and her abuelo have medium brown skin, and Sofia has straight brown hair (Abuelo is bald). Readers will recognize Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist from Beaty’s previous installments in the Questioneers series making cameo appearances in several scenes. While the story connects back to the title and her aptitude for the presidency in only the second-to-last sentence of the book, Sofia’s leadership and grit are themes throughout. Roberts’ signature illustration style lends a sense of whimsy; detailed drawings will have readers scouring each page for interesting minutiae.

Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3704-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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