The paired lessons—of art as a crucial element in education and of the importance of recognizing different learning...

THE ART OF MISS CHEW

Art is a language, and the right teacher can change a life is the twin message of this personal story from the exuberant author/illustrator.

Polacco provides an unabashedly autobiographical account of a year in grammar school with the Irish Mr. Donovan, who understands that she needs additional time to work at written tests. He also introduces her to Miss Chew, an art teacher, and both immediately recognize Trisha's emerging talent—although the Chinese Miss Chew hears her name as “Ther-esa” and calls her that ever after. It is Miss Chew who discerns Trisha's talent at perceiving negative space and connects it to her difficulties in school: She sees words as patterns, not letters. When Mr. Donovan is called to Ireland upon the death of his father, the substitute will not allow Trisha extra time on exams and tries to keep her from art class. Right prevails—and Trisha gets to have a painting in the high-school art fair, even though she is so young. Polacco's pencil-and-marker art is full of color and movement, with its exaggerated figures and vibrant line. Her characters are always gesturing, caught in mid-sentence. Her first-person narration tells her tragedy and triumph in a very down-to-earth way, using the tone of the 11-year-old she was.

The paired lessons—of art as a crucial element in education and of the importance of recognizing different learning styles—come through clearly, leavened by Polacco's use of color and gesture. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25703-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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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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