Considering nature as artistic medium, Thomas opens with a poem about nature sketching winter; Orback illustrates it so, adding bits of color on succeeding pages. The warmth of the final winter page leads the reader into spring. Here the conceit is that nature “draws spring in pastel chalk” and softly colored pages reflect the poetry about the births of animals and buds on trees. Spring ends with rain and leads into summer’s watercolors. These pictures are much more vibrant than during spring: “Summer colors sparkle.” When Thomas begins her poem about autumn, the illustrations are oils in large blotches of fiery oranges and yellows. And Thomas crowds names of colors into long words: “redorangepurplebronze / indigogoldgreen. . . .” Finally, the poem returns full circle to winter’s black-and-white ink drawings. There is a strikingly rare synergy between the poetry and the illustrations in this truly remarkable addition to the pantheon of books on the four seasons for school-aged children. (Poetry. 7-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8225-6807-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007


From the Three-Ring Rascals series , Vol. 1

Most children will agree the book is “smafunderful (smart + fun + wonderful).” (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

In this entertaining chapter book, the first in a series, readers meet kind Sir Sidney and the gentle performers and hands in his circus. But Sir Sidney is tired and leaves the circus under the management of new-hire Barnabas Brambles for a week.

That Sir Sidney is beloved by all is quickly established, presenting a sharp contrast to the bully Brambles. The scoundrel immediately comes up with a “to do” list that includes selling the animals and eliminating the mice Bert and Gert. (Gert is almost more distressed by Brambles’ ill-fitting suit and vows to tailor it.) Revealed almost entirely through dialogue, the put-upon animals’ solidarity is endearing. The story, like the circus train now driven by the Famous Flying Banana Brothers, takes absurd loops and turns. The art is fully integrated, illustrating the action and supplementing the text with speech bubbles, facsimile letters and posters, Brambles’ profit-and-loss notes, examples of Gert’s invented vocabulary and more. Brambles’ plans go awry, of course, and he gets his comeuppance. With Bert and Gert acting as his conscience, along with a suit from Gert that finally fits and a dose of forgiveness, Brambles makes a turnaround. Sensitive children may doubt Sir Sidney’s wisdom in leaving his animals with an unscrupulous man, and the closing message is a tad didactic, but that doesn’t blunt the fun too much.

Most children will agree the book is “smafunderful (smart + fun + wonderful).” (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61620-244-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013


In a word: Wonderful.

A spelling-bee champ welcomes readers to the zesty, awesome world of wording wizardry.

Whether you recite it from A to Z or in reverse, the alphabet’s cool, not to mention the words you can build by combining its letters in myriad ways. Such is the premise of this cheerful book that lists 26 empowering words, from Z to A—Avant-garde’s own initials—each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet (except X, for which extraordinary subs). Each word is a favorite of the teen author, who in 2021 became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The word list begins and ends with the author’s own names (Zaila, meaning “mighty, powerful,” and Avant-garde, “to be at the forefront”). On each page, the same word appears three to five times, printed in boldfaced type, alongside brief, thought-provoking, upbeat observations. The words cavort spiritedly on the page in hyphenated form (“L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R,” “K-I-N-D-N-E-S-S”), inviting readers to draw their pronunciations out slowly, as if to playfully savor their “feel.” A pithy quotation from luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Sitting Bull, and Shakira accompanies each word. Energetic, bold illustrations featuring dynamic patterns and characters diverse in skin tone, age, and physical ability greatly enliven the book. Readers should be strongly encouraged to create personal word lists and commentaries. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

In a word: Wonderful. (the origins of Zaila’s words of wonder) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 27, 2023

ISBN: 9780593568934

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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