A playful, comic romp of a book for new readers.

READ REVIEW

BRUNO & LULU'S PLAYGROUND ADVENTURES

All the playground’s a stage for these two pals.

A metafictive introduction to this title finds chipmunk Lulu and red squirrel Bruno breaking the fourth wall to introduce themselves to readers by revealing their respective attributes. Lulu’s imaginative strengths end up being central to both of the ensuing stories—the first about coveting cake and the second about making the best of a timeout punishment. Although he is decidedly less whimsical than his friend, Bruno patiently indulges Lulu’s flights of fancy in both chapters, and Lulu also comes across as the “good friend” she declares herself to be in the introduction as she dreams up play scenarios. The text is delivered almost entirely in color-coded speech-balloon dialogue between the friends (yellow for Lulu to match her hair bow and blue for Bruno to match his glasses). This supports the cartoonish quality of the humorous, digitally rendered art, but some pages end up looking rather cluttered with a surfeit of balloons. The final two pages incorporate the text in the illustrations, presenting the words “THE END” in pebbles in the sandbox, but Bruno intercedes to scratch the word “NOT” above them, suggesting that more squirrely adventures await the friends in future stories.

A playful, comic romp of a book for new readers. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3553-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...

ADA LACE, ON THE CASE

From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.

DR. FELL AND THE PLAYGROUND OF DOOM

Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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