BRAINSTORM

Entertaining reassurance and lighthearted encouragement for those tough first moments of putting pencil to paper.

A student finds the way out of the clouds of writer’s block.

“Teacher says it’s time to write,” muses the brown-haired, light-skinned protagonist. Other students seem to be finding their way. One child has several crossed-out words; two more have begun stories. But “I peek outside— / it’s gloomy, gray. / Cloudy. / Like my brain today.” Thinking produces nothing at first; the pencil sits unused, the child’s head slumped into a folded arm. But then, “KER-PLINK! / I feel a drop. / One tiny thought.” Words, images, and phrases begin to fall like raindrops, and the illustrations gain color and energy as inspiration grows. The young writer dances, kicking up legs clad in striped tights and yellow boots as possibilities swirl around. The pages grow dark as in a big storm: “Huge ideas flowing fast!” And finally, after some joyful splashing in puddles of words, the sun appears, and a rainbow arches over a “flood of possibility.” The metaphor nicely captures the creative process—from the frustration of waiting for inspiration to the anticipation of something gathering in the distance to the sought-after deluge of ideas. A page of writing prompts and a glossary of writing terms follow. Pair this with Andrew Larson’s A Squiggly Story (2016), illustrated by Mike Lowery, or Peter H. Reynolds’ The Word Collector (2018) to stoke creative fires. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Entertaining reassurance and lighthearted encouragement for those tough first moments of putting pencil to paper. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-53411-148-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

RALPH TELLS A STORY

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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