Children aren’t really the natural audience for this heartfelt tale of second chances; save it for over-40s just starting...

READ REVIEW

SPARE PARTS

Robot love.

Because he can’t get his secondhand, gear-driven heart started one morning, lonely Rhoobart hobbles off on mismatched mechanical limbs to the Spare Parts Mart in fruitless hopes of finding a replacement. Eventually, hope gives way to despair, and he collapses: “His zipper lips chattered, / He rattled and clattered. / Now he was sure NOTHING mattered.” Enter Sweetart, “an energetic bit of metal / With just the right amount of tarnish,” who assures him that “you don’t need a new heart, you / just need a jump start!” So it proves, as sparks fly, and with Rhoobart’s heart thumping and rattling again, off they go together, singing a silly love song: “We’re all spare parts. / We’ve got secondhand hearts, / It’s true. / We go together like pickles and glue. / You stick to me, / I’ll stick to you.” Harmonizing with the brief narrative’s clanky rhymes, this plainly metaphorical encounter is set in a junkyard composed of jumbled masses of bent machinery, loose gears, and torn flat bits bearing obscure strings of numbers or battered words. Though likewise loose, the robotic figures are anthropomorphic enough for younger viewers to pick them out against the broken backdrop.

Children aren’t really the natural audience for this heartfelt tale of second chances; save it for over-40s just starting out again. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59643-723-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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