THE GRAVES FAMILY

Polacco sets her wildest romp yet around an actual “haunted house” in her Michigan hometown. The arrival of Doug and Shalleaux Graves, along with their children, brings on one brouhaha after another in staid Union City. Shortly after young neighbors Seth and Sara find their new neighbors’ house crawling with giant spiders and scary tropical plants, Mrs. Graves’s pet giant Venus flytrap breaks up a Ladies’ Garden Club Tea, and then Mr. Graves’s seemingly miraculous hair restorer, developed in his own basement lab, makes all of the town’s leading citizens behave like cats. Just as an angry mob arrives to give the Graves what-for, so too does TV Decorating Show host Christopher Joel, defusing the situation by rapturously declaring the Graves’s home winner of the Fall Home Show. Polacco gives Mrs. Graves Bride-of-Frankenstein hair, and places her customary cast of dismayed grownups and rangy, level-headed children atop backgrounds of writhing tendrils and floods of glop. Despite a rather quick and tidy resolution, this is sure to elicit delighted cries of “Eeeewwww!” from young audiences, at Halloween or any other time. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-24034-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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