Mr. Lincoln, the African-American school principal is considered “just plain cool” and is loved by all the students—except Eugene Esterhause. “Mean Gene” is a bully who uses racial epithets he has learned from his bigoted father. Mr. Lincoln is determined to reach Eugene and affect a change in his thinking and behavior. When he discovers that Eugene has learned a great deal about nature from his kind grandfather, he enlists Eugene’s help in managing the school’s new atrium. They become deeply involved with the birds, especially a pair of mallards that have nested there. Along the way, Mr. Lincoln tries to teach the troubled child about acceptance and respect of all his “little birds,” both feathered and human. When the ducklings hatch, Eugene and Mr. Lincoln lead them safely to the pond where their parents await. Polacco (Betty Doll, p. 264, etc.) is a master at telling moving stories that gently teach lessons of kindness, compassion, and love. This newest work is only slightly less successful. It is certainly visually appealing, with colorful, expressive illustrations that beautifully enhance the text. Personalities and changing moods are vividly presented in Polacco’s signature style. The story, however, seems a bit contrived and derivative. It’s a little of Make Way for Ducklings meets To Sir with Love. In fact, endpapers that show a grown Gene Esterhause, now a teacher, indicating there might be more to the story as indeed the flap copy reveals that Polacco based her setting on a school where the ducks and atrium do exist. With that in mind, it is still a sweet story about learning to respect oneself and others, and is well worth the reader’s attention. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23754-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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