Light, not-at-all scary fun for kids who like their spooky trappings sans terror.



From the Boo La La series , Vol. 1

A trio of best friends fears that their new teacher at Boo Academy isn’t a ghost but (oh, the horror) a human!

Top student Maude (who appears to be black in the illustrations) and her best friends, basketball star Tiny (white and, yes, the tallest in their class) and shy CJ (whose skin appears to be a smidge darker than Tiny’s) are excited to start third grade at Boo Academy, nicknamed Boo La La, a premier school for ghost girls. They have a new, white dorm mother this year, Ms. Finley, as the old one was caught violating a major ghost rule: “No direct contact with humans!” While they like her a lot, there are some things that are a little off—Ms. Finley doesn’t have the strong sense of smell that a ghost should, and, strangely, she wears shoes. The girls suspect she might actually be a human and set out to test her against ghost rules to mixed results. Finally, they ask her directly and learn why a ghost might lack a sense of smell (she’s got a terrible cold) and wear shoes (orthopedic shoes from overdoing it on ghostly athletics in her youth). Though the characters tend toward stock, the worldbuilding shows unexpected wit, especially in ghostly academics. A favorite saying of the principal’s—“one ghost’s strange is another ghost’s normal”—recurs throughout.

Light, not-at-all scary fun for kids who like their spooky trappings sans terror. (Paranormal adventure. 6-9)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91798-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Cool beans indeed.


A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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