MRS. ARMITAGE

QUEEN OF THE ROAD

What could be more appealing than Mrs. Anastasia Armitage, sitting at table opposite her dog Breakspear of a morning, reading Uncle Cosmo’s letter informing her that he’s given her his old car. Tying back her silvery hair and wrapping a lavender scarf about her throat, she and Breakspear immediately lose the car’s hubcaps by driving over a big hole in the road: “bing bong dang boing!” Fenders and bumpers are lost on the way to the junkyard, hood and roof soon after. As the two take off for the blissful countryside, all the doors and the trunk fall off. But then Uncle Cosmo appears on his new motorbike, with his new friends “Gizzy and Lulu, Ferdinando and Smudge.” They outfit Mrs. Armitage—and what’s left of the car—appropriately and all go off to the Crazy Duck Café. Blake does more with squiggly black pen strokes and near-random splotches of color wash than many illustrators could do with much more, and he’s as giggle-inducing as they come. Excellent for read-alouds, and besides, it will remind you to pull out his Captain Najork stories once again. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56145-287-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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