JIM'S LION

Of possible interest to caregivers seeking books with bibliotherapeutic potential, this difficult and inventive work is most...

Illustrator Deacon offers a dramatic, disturbing interpretation of an already-unsettling story of childhood illness.

The story remains the same as in the earlier version, a picture book with soft pencil-and-pastel illustrations by Ian Andrew (2001), the text both allusive and elusive. However, the presentations and quite likely the audiences vary considerably. Young Jim suffers from an unspecified condition that requires some sort of surgery to cure. Nurse Bami (from “Africa,” a vague description that risks allegations of cultural insensitivity) suggests imaginative and spiritual ways to find the strength to cope with his fear and anxiety. Wordless dream (or more accurately, nightmare) sequences presented in panels make up more than half the pages, expanding the vision and intensifying the impact of Hoban’s words. Occasional touches of humor appear, as when a series of animals auditions for the role of Jim’s animal “finder,” but more often, the watercolor pictures portray a surreal world, with a menacing rabbit magician or the eponymous lion displaying his fierce fangs. A muted and limited color palette causes splashes of blood red to stand out startlingly just as the spare, low-key telling heightens the paintings’ emotional heft.

Of possible interest to caregivers seeking books with bibliotherapeutic potential, this difficult and inventive work is most likely to be appreciated for its artistic vision. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6517-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

ACOUSTIC ROOSTER AND HIS BARNYARD BAND

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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