VICTOR AND HUGO

If readers are ready to forgive its confused plot, the art offers much to appreciate.

Two dogs rescue their master’s accordion—and the world’s music—in Paris.

Victor and Hugo, a terrier and a basset hound, respectively, accompany their elderly, white master, Maestro, and his accordion on the banks of the River Seine. Appreciative viewers watch their performance, but a tossed salami causes Victor, Hugo, and the accordion to fall into the river. Both dogs (who start speaking once separated from their master) are illustrated with personality and emotion, and the oft-changing perspective keeps the pace moving. However, the core of the story—that Maestro’s accordion gets stuck in a tire that constantly evades capture and that said accordion suddenly houses the music of the world—feels arbitrary and even nonsensical. Victor and Hugo, along with many Parisians, chase the accordion, which somehow ends up in a sewer that Hugo and Victor access through a hidden door. Afraid they’re stuck in the sewer for good, Victor and Hugo sing a song that makes the whole of Paris sad…and leads Maestro to them. He liberates his accordion and leads the dogs back to the streets, where everyone celebrates the return of music to the world. While Blake’s lush oil paintings evoke the colors, vibrancy, diversity, and excitement of this little slice of Paris, his story is a disjointed jumble.

If readers are ready to forgive its confused plot, the art offers much to appreciate. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-24324-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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