MESSENGER, MESSENGER

In propulsive rhymed couplets, Burleigh (Hercules, 1999, etc.) tells a day in the life of a bicycle messenger in a city inspired by Chicago. “Sun, wind, rain, snow / Messenger, messenger, gotta go.” And go he does, the wiry, bearded young Calvin Curbhopper, the color of caramel. He carries his bike downstairs, rides it over the bridge and through the city, from an early morning delivery to a nighttime view from the 95th floor. His cell phone keeps him in touch as he moves from office building (note the firm of Stolzfus, King, Yoder, and Zook) to the dark side of town (the sign says “Busy: please go away”). He eats his lunch on the run and waves to his buddies as he zips by. The gouache paintings use yellow as a leitmotif: for sunlight, for building stone, for city illumination. The images are bookended by Calvin’s studio apartment: with its futon bed, take-out containers (the stove is piled high with books), and retro turntable. We catch a glimpse of Calvin’s endearingly urban life along with his bongos, his cat, and his tea mug. Children will accept and appreciate the rhythm of a life they glimpse every day. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82103-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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Though it’s on the long side, Moore’s tale combines traditional themes and spritely illustrations to create a satisfying,...

CAPTAIN CAT

This quirky tale has something for everyone: an adventurous sea captain, a mysterious island, mounds of treasure, a spunky princess, handsome sailors, charming cats (who are also ruthless hunters), and a clever, if not entirely intentional, comeuppance for a band of greedy merchants.

The lengthy text covers a fair amount of time and distance in a conversational tone that suits the story’s origin as an “old Italian tale” (according to the flyleaf; there is no other source note). Captain Cat’s business sense, according to his colleagues, is sadly lacking, as he cheerfully trades goods of great value for his feline friends. Moreover, his urge to explore eventually sends him off in the opposite direction from the traditional trade routes. Ironically, he winds up on an island where his cats are more precious than gold—and where they are more than happy to settle down. Captain Cat, on the other hand, continues to sail, first back to his home port, where his wealth dazzles the other merchants, and then on across the open seas. Moore’s mixed-media illustrations have the appearance of pen and ink and watercolor. A preponderance of mostly muted blues, greens, browns and tans create convincing watery vistas and rocky beaches as well as a plethora of cheerful-looking, big-eyed cats.

Though it’s on the long side, Moore’s tale combines traditional themes and spritely illustrations to create a satisfying, offbeat adventure. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6151-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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