An important story that just doesn’t quite come together.

BOTTLE CAP BOYS

DANCING ON ROYAL STREET

The tale of two brothers who have a tip-top, tapping time on the streets of New Orleans.

Rudy, wearing a green-sleeved T-shirt, and his brother Randy, wearing purple, meet on Royal Street, press bottle caps into the bottoms of their white tennis shoes, and the duel commences. They tap dance for audiences large and small, the rhyming text echoing the rhythms of their movement. To help readers keep track of the back-and-forth dialogue, each boy’s words are set in type that matches his shirt color. The text makes clear the goal of this duel: “who dances best / Eats good tonight.” Beignets, pralines, red beans, jambalaya, and “po’boys for poor boys” will constitute their feast, and they plan to save a seat on the trolley for Mama. Williams-Garcia tells an important story of how many industrious African-American boys in New Orleans make money entertaining tourists, but readers who expect the brilliance of One Crazy Summer (2010) and its sequels will find this picture book a disappointment. Lackluster illustrations that flatten out rather than enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of the spectators detract further from the book’s appeal. Williams-Garcia ends with a note about her experiences with New Orleans bottle-cap boys and provides a culinary glossary for those unfamiliar with Creole and Cajun cuisine.

An important story that just doesn’t quite come together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60349-030-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marimba Books

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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THE GRUFFALO

The action of this rhymed and humorous tale centers upon a mouse who "took a stroll/through the deep dark wood./A fox saw the mouse/and the mouse looked good." The mouse escapes being eaten by telling the fox that he is on his way to meet his friend the gruffalo (a monster of his imagination), whose favorite food is roasted fox. The fox beats a hasty retreat. Similar escapes are in store for an owl and a snake; both hightail it when they learn the particulars: tusks, claws, terrible jaws, eyes orange, tongue black, purple prickles on its back. When the gruffalo suddenly materializes out of the mouse's head and into the forest, the mouse has to think quick, declaring himself inedible as the "scariest creature in the deep dark wood," and inviting the gruffalo to follow him to witness the effect he has on the other creatures. When the gruffalo hears that the mouse's favorite food is gruffalo crumble, he runs away. It's a fairly innocuous tale, with twists that aren't sharp enough and treachery that has no punch. Scheffler's funny scenes prevent the suspense from culminating; all his creatures, predator and prey, are downright lovable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2386-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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Perhaps youngsters who think they are more interested in football than reading will take the message to heart.

THE MAGICIAN'S HAT

New England Patriot and literacy advocate Mitchell proves to have a touch of magic as an author as well as on the field.

It’s Family Fun Day at the library, and families of many sizes, constellations, and skin tones are participating. Amid book scavenger hunts and storytelling, a magician arrives. He is white and lanky, sporting a purple polka-dot vest and a bright yellow ascot. But most importantly, he has a very large, mysterious hat. He tells the children how he came to Family Fun Day when he was younger and read his very first book about magic in the library. Turning the pages and getting lost in the words inspired him to become a magician. He realized that it wasn’t just about spells and potions, but that books themselves are magical. Three children reach into the hat and find books about their future professions—Amy, a white girl, is a dentist; Matt, a bespectacled black boy, is a football player; and Ryan, a white boy, is an astronaut. The magician then turns the hat to readers, asking, “What are your dreams?” Previously self-published, the work gets a new look from Lew-Vriethoff’s bustling library and bright swirls of magic and bookish motivation. As an entry in the books-are-awesome genre, it’s mostly distinguished by the author’s clear belief in his message.

Perhaps youngsters who think they are more interested in football than reading will take the message to heart. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-11454-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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