The slippery concept of “problem” aside, rhyming verse and peppy illustrations make for a fun and funny ride.

READ REVIEW

THE PROBLEM WITH PROBLEMS

Problems are colorful creatures, underfoot and under your wheelchair and getting under your skin.

Swirly or scribbly, winged or scaled, and often roly-poly, these googly-eyed imps range from tiny to too tall for the page. Some walk on many legs; one seems to be part of a wall. Sometimes the creatures embody a problem: When an ice cream cone falls splat, the creature’s face is the down-facing scoop; in a cafe serving unappetizing fare, the creature is the frightening dish of food itself; when green goo seeps all over a child’s foot, the creature is that very glue. In other cases, the creatures cause the mischief, dumping black paint all over or sticking out a tongue to intercept a ball. Problems are “Knotty…Hairy…Slippery…Tough… / Sticky like superglue, gathering stuff.” Hicks’ cheerful illustrations deftly integrate a childlike drawing style with visually sophisticated composition and postures—for example, a character’s leg stuck expressively straight out. The creatures besetting a multiracial cast of kids and adults are called problems, but despite lip service to problem-solving, the suggested solutions lean more toward stress-soothing techniques: venting, intentionally relaxing, ignoring them, or waiting them out—“Some you can sleep on. They wake in the night, / then quietly tiptoe and slip from your sight.”

The slippery concept of “problem” aside, rhyming verse and peppy illustrations make for a fun and funny ride. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17317-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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