WATCH OUT FOR WOLFGANG

Who’s afraid of the big bad recycler? In Carrick’s riff—his authorial debut—on “The Three Little Pigs,” a mother robot sends her sons out to build their own factories, warning, “But you must build them big and strong to keep out Wolfgang the Recycler.” Though Mother worries he will disassemble her boys and make them into kitchen appliances, when Wolfgang outwits anxious Rod and vain Slick, he attaches their parts to himself. Ultimately, the third brother, odd, mud-loving Dudley, triumphs. The author/illustrator is a recycler himself, using found materials in bold, full-bleed, mixed-media illustrations to capture each robotic character’s metallic uniqueness. However, the pacing of words and pictures sometimes falters, leaving readers unsure of which part of the text is depicted. Further, while the traditional porcine tale’s moral lauds the value of hard work and logic, the message implied by Dudley’s victory—be yourself and you will defeat the wolves at your door—is undermined by the equally singular Rod and Slick’s undoing. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-57091-689-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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FIRST GRADE, HERE I COME!

Henry has graduated from kindergarten, but that doesn’t mean he has necessarily left it behind. When his mother asks how his first day in first grade went, he says, “I didn’t like it because I missed kindergarten.” His mother encourages him to talk about it. As Henry goes about debriefing her, he develops a whole new picture. The teacher was new—and a man!—but he was also a good guy, as evidenced by the fact that he liked Henry’s pet worm. There were new kids, too, but Henry had already made a friend in Oswaldo. There was a cool science corner with a really fast guinea pig (discovered when you just happen to open Curly’s cage door). Minor problems are knit up, a little independence is dispensed and the first day of first grade turns out actually to be pretty neat. Prospective first-graders will find Carlson’s story enormously buoyant, floating those first-day cares away on the backs of her sweet, lopsided characters. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-06127-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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