Kaleidoscope the Magic Tube


This story of a child’s longing for a puppy, illustrated with charming, cartoon-style illustrations, aims to combine narrative with factual information for children 6 and up.
Giles (JESUS SITS in the DRIVERS SEAT, 2014, etc.) tells the story of young Thomas, the narrator, who wants a “puppy brother.” After briefly using his mother’s binoculars to see a faraway dog park, Thomas decides to build an optical instrument of his own. As he searches for materials in a closet, something hits his head, and though he completes his telescope, when he looks into it, he falls into a magical land. There, he and Princess Jade embark on a journey guided by magical creatures until they land in a dog park, and he feels his face being licked. Opening his eyes, Thomas finds himself in the hospital, recovering from a concussion. It’s his birthday, and his cousin Jade is holding his gift—the puppy brother he’s been longing for. Throughout the tale, Thomas’ mother shares world history lessons, but the integration is awkward, especially the attempt to link the Battle of Iwo Jima and binoculars. The way Thomas’ optical instrument is described—“binoculars somehow end up being a telescope that is really a kaleidoscope”—is confusing, as is the timing of his concussion. Most readers will think Thomas is hurt when he begins hallucinating, but his mother’s explanation in the hospital indicates it happened earlier. Because the narration doesn’t clearly tie Thomas’ desire for the optical instrument to his desire for the dog and because unnecessary details—such as the history of the Fresnel lens or all the components required to construct a homemade kaleidoscope—interrupt, the story’s momentum is lost. The book is poorly edited, with uncorrected errors in punctuation and sentence structure; e.g., “What is a dog park I ask?” The choice to avoid colloquial language in the dialogue, for example, the repeated use of cannot and I have instead of can’t and I’ve, makes the voices unrealistic and stilted-sounding.
As with binoculars or a telescope, inability to properly focus mars the view.

Pub Date: June 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495247972

Page Count: 34

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2014

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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