IN ENZO'S SPLENDID GARDENS

The prolific Polacco (The Trees of the Dancing Goats, 1996, etc.) tells a cumulative tale of the mayhem that ensues when a bee lands on a tree at an outdoor restaurant, setting off a frenzied chain of events; "The House That Jack Built" provides the blueprint—"This is the bee that stopped on a tree in Enzo's splendid gardens." A boy who drops his book to look at a bee causes the waiter to trip, splashing a drink on a matron, forcing ladies to trip and spill their tea, resulting in a man face down in the dessert tray, who jostles the chef, and so forth. The rhyme scheme gets the better of Polacco, with awkward rhythms that deviate from the pattern. As the chaos spreads, the lines become jarring: "Here comes Enzo, full of spaghetti, chasing his cat, whose name is Lettie, hoping to catch her, but she thinks not and runs through the room, wearing the pot that was jostled and spilled." The result is a glorified food fight. The illustrations are crowded with swarms of restaurant-goers whose mouths show perpetual astonishment, but the staging is clumsy, too. Readers cannot follow the action as it is choreographed in the scenes, e.g., the waiter is suspended mid-air for two spreads, implying a short passage of time, while another man in those pages goes from a relaxed pose sitting behind a table to running away in panic some distance from the scene, indicating that the time that has lapsed is longer. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 1997

ISBN: 0-399-23107-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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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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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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