One romping celebration of boyhood to read again and again.

WHAT LITTLE BOYS ARE MADE OF

“What are little boys made of?” In Neubecker’s hands, the answer is a whole lot of fun!

From “Moons and stars and rockets to Mars” to “Wings and tails and dragons with scales,” this rhyme’s half-pint hero imagines his way through most boys’ obsessions. Astronaut, sports star, knight, dinosaur-tamer—they’re all there, presented in action-packed, energetic illustrations. Done in pen or pencil, then digitally colored, the artwork has a raw freshness as spontaneous as the lad’s revelry. Neubecker skillfully uses the text and compositions to build upon each other. Each verse begins with the boy and his toys in a plain and simple environment. But in resolving the verse (“That’s what little boys are made of”), gorgeous, visually complex, full spreads are offered, giving readers insight into the boy’s rollicking fantasies. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition—the density of the imagined merriment on one spread after such a sparse one—reinforcing the innocence of the child’s real-life play. The illustrator also pays homage to a certain visual aesthetic for each of the youth’s adventures. As a pirate, readers may recall old naval illustrations; as a dragon-slayer, illuminated manuscripts; and as a jungle explorer, the wild things of Maurice Sendak. To complete the picture, the author also shows the quiet and loving side of boys, as they are also made of “A kiss and a hug, a snuggle and LOVE.”

One romping celebration of boyhood to read again and again. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-202355-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Pleasant but slightly pedestrian.

THE THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF

Fairy-tale fun for everyone. (Except trolls.)

Barnett and Klassen partner for a retelling of the classic folktale about a trio of variously sized goats (all named Gruff) and a troll whose greed ultimately leads to his downfall. The story has been told many times, but in this variation, Barnett shows off for his audience by giving the troll a substantial amount of dialogue, most of which rhymes: “I love goat! Let me count the ways. / Goat rump in a honey glaze. / Goat smoked, goat poached, a goat pot roast. / Goat smorgasbord! Goat smeared on toast! / A goat kale salad—hold the kale. / Goat escargot! (That’s goat plus snails.) / On goat I’ll dine, on goat I’ll sup. / You little goat, I’ll eat you up!” It’s amusing verbal play, and librarians and caregivers who love to read out loud will enjoy hamming it up, although it may lessen the scary impact of the character. Likewise, the artwork, created in ink, watercolor, and graphite and compiled digitally, is pure Klassen, and the brown, green, and blue tones combine into an earthy setting where the ratlike troll (sans tail) fits in perfectly. But the visual reveal of the third billy goat takes a bit of oomph out of the story, as readers will be able to anticipate that this troll won’t be having goat strudel anytime soon. Fans of either Barnett or Klassen will love this retelling, but librarians won’t be sending their Paul Galdone or Jerry Pinkney retellings out to pasture just yet. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Pleasant but slightly pedestrian. (Folktale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-3386-7384-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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