As delightful as any of the bounteous, monkey-filled books out there.

READ REVIEW

MONKEY & ROBOT

FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS

A third outing for friends Monkey and Robot spells all sorts of F-U-N.

Catalanotto continues the series’ usual formula: four stand-alone chapters peppered with the primate-machine odd couple’s antics. In the first chapter, Monkey asks Robot which day he was born. Robot says, “I was not born. I was built.” Since that “built-day” happens to be the next day, Monkey brainstorms aloud his wildest party ideas. Cake! Cookies! Balloons! Surprises! Despite Robot’s insistence that he doesn’t want to celebrate, Robot eventually goes along with the plan—and maybe even feels as special as Monkey wants him to. Other chapters cover a visit from an “ex-gladiator” (translation: exterminator), a birdsitting accident involving the neighbor’s parakeet, and a giggly, messy human baby. Though all four chapters practically bounce with silliness, there’s an overall groundedness that supports the overarching “I can fix it” theme. Black-and-white illustrations carry the text’s simple dialogue and occasional narration from panel to panel. On average, there are three or four panels per page. The few human side characters show some diversity in skin tone. Clothed, anthropomorphic Monkey’s childlike innocence and curiosity are spot-on—if a bit too human for pure comfort. One notable scene touches briefly on transracial adoption when Monkey asks why mother Tina, who presents white, looks different from baby Zhen, who is Chinese.

As delightful as any of the bounteous, monkey-filled books out there. (Graphic early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939547-59-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Amusing, yes. Useful for reading practice, yes, but not necessarily guaranteed to make new readers the “read-i-est.” (Early...

WE ARE GROWING!

From the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series

Elephant and Piggie make an appearance to introduce the first in their new series, an egalitarian introduction to superlatives.

Each one of seven blades of talking grass—of a total of eight—discovers that it is superb at something: it’s tallest, curliest, silliest, and so forth. The humor aims to appeal to a broad spectrum. It is slightly disturbing that one being eaten by purple bugs is proud of being the crunchiest, but that will certainly appeal to a slice of the audience. The eighth blade of grass is grappling with a philosophical identity crisis; its name is Walt, a sly reference to Whitman's Leaves of Grass that will go right over the heads of beginning readers but may amuse astute parents or teachers. Tension builds with the approach of a lawn mower; the blades of grass lose their unique features when they are trimmed to equal heights. Mercifully, they are chopped off right above the eyes and can continue their silly banter. Departing from the image of a Whitman-esque free spirit, Walt now discovers he is the neatest. Lots of speech bubbles, repetition, and clear layout make this entry a useful addition to lessons on adjectives and superlatives while delivering a not-so-subtle message that everyone is good at something. Elephant and Piggie's final assertion that “this book is the FUNNIEST” doesn't necessarily make it so, however.

Amusing, yes. Useful for reading practice, yes, but not necessarily guaranteed to make new readers the “read-i-est.” (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2635-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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It breaks no new ground, but even the worms are smiling.

ONE LITTLE LOT

THE 1-2-3S OF AN URBAN GARDEN

One empty lot needs two helping hands, three days of cleanup, and so on to become a community garden “full of delicious!”

In, mostly, aerial or elevated views, Vidal’s bright, painted illustrations track the lot’s transformation from a (tidy-looking, admittedly) dumping ground behind a rusty chain-link fence. Echoing the multiethnic and multiracial nature of the group of neighbors who gather to do the work (white-presenting figures are in the minority), the eventual crops include bok choy, collard greens, and kittley along with beans, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes—all of which end up incorporated in the climactic spread into a community dinner spread out on tables among the planting boxes. Typically of such garden-themed picture-book tributes, the spirit of community and joy at the eventual bounty elbow out any real acknowledgement of the necessary sweat equity (there’s not even a glancing reference to weeding here, for instance) or the sense of an entire season’s passing between planting and harvest. Also, as that public feast is created by considerably more than “Ten newfound friends,” the counting is just a conceit. Mullen closes with notes on the actual garden in Minneapolis that inspired her and on making gardens bee-friendly.

It breaks no new ground, but even the worms are smiling. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58089-889-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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