Neubecker should have called it quits after his amazing Wow! School! (2007).

FALL IS FOR SCHOOL

The same brother-sister duo from Winter is for Snow (2013) this time looks at fall’s big marker: the start of school.

Whereas the brother was the cheerleader for winter, now it’s the sister talking up all the pros about school—learning about Romans, pyramids, mummies, and prehistoric beasts; recess; studying math; music and art classes; reading and writing stories—while the brother finds only the negatives. Until she starts to talk about the pumpkin drop, that is, and finally gets him to change his mind about school. This outing suffers from some of the same flaws as the first: the rhyming verses are bland and sometimes misfire, the boy’s change of heart is rather sudden, and this is still more of a list than a story. In addition, readers may wonder how this boy’s “baby” sister knows so much about going to school—down to the subjects studied and the special activities they will do—especially since she seems to be pretty advanced with regard to vocabulary and subjects she is familiar with (she is wearing a backpack of her own, so maybe both are returning to school, not starting?). Neubecker’s illustrations show the small girl pontificating while leading her brother to school through the city, her imagined scenes taking up large swaths of the spreads. Both are white redheads. Her verses are in red, while his responses are in blue.

Neubecker should have called it quits after his amazing Wow! School! (2007).

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3254-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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