A story held back by a plethora of similarities to the Potter world, though it has plenty of shine on its own.

Andy Lightfoot and the Time Warp

Henshon’s debut novel treads familiar ground, pitting an orphan and two friends against forces beyond their ken.

Andy Lightfoot shares his parents’ zest for time travel—a predilection that distresses his grandmother to no end because, when Andy was 5 years old, both his parents vanished mysteriously, lost in time. Sent to live with his grandparents, Andy wavers between deference to his grandmother’s wishes and a quiet sort of defiance, which soon has him creating his own time shuttle as a science fair project. With gentle encouragement from his more adventurous grandfather, Andy works up the courage to apply to the Jules Verne Time Travel Summer School—the same summer camp his parents attended before vanishing. What follows isn’t entirely a retread of Harry Potter’s first adventures at Hogwarts, but there are enough similarities to be distracting. Andy becomes fast friends with two other students, a boy and a girl, and goes shopping for school supplies with a guide before departing via an unorthodox mode of transportation. He’s placed on one of his new school’s four teams. He attracts the headmaster’s attention. And of course, Andy and his friends enjoy adventures far out of their depth, from battling a dinosaur on the school grounds to his first real experience with time travel. Clearing the air a bit is a blatant shoutout to the Harry Potter books: “They were a big hit forty years ago,” observes one of Andy’s new friends. But Henshon’s story is at its best when it diverges from the Potter model and focuses on relationships—especially the one between Andy and his grandfather, who, unlike his wife, is equal parts wise, adventurous, and tolerant. “I can’t tell you what to do, because I don’t have to live with the decision,” Grandpa Lightfoot reassures Andy when the young man wonders whether he’s really cut out to pursue his time-travel dream. “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.”

A story held back by a plethora of similarities to the Potter world, though it has plenty of shine on its own.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 221

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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