This title lines up between a realistic approach and a comic one, soaring along nicely.

READ REVIEW

ABCS ON WINGS

Fasten your seat belts: here’s another alphabet book featuring airplanes. Does this one take flight over the others?

The geometric shapes and colorful graphic images make this one quite attractive. One or two words are assigned to each letter, displayed in both upper and lower cases, usually two letters to a double-page spread. Some words are natural choices—“Aa is for ace. / Bb is for biplane”—while others will require explanation. “Cc is for carrier. / Dd is for deck” shows a plane taking off from an aircraft carrier. “Kk is for Kitty Hawk” occupies a double-page spread of its own and depicts a triumphant Wilbur aboard the Wright Flyer with Orville running along behind in the sand. Olivera has mixed success for the tricky letters, offering up “quick,” “UFO” (paired playfully if rather opaquely for the audience with “vanished”), “X axis,” and “zeppelin.” Most spreads include humans interacting with the key object. Though there is no legend, there are enough interesting terms to hold kids’ attention, especially those who are fascinated with airplanes. Variations in perspective and the mood of the artwork keep the two-dimensional scenes from feelng static while retaining the posterlike style.

This title lines up between a realistic approach and a comic one, soaring along nicely. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3242-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

ELBOW GREASE

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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