A mostly entertaining romp, but the ending underwhelms.

MY PENCIL AND ME

How to create a story…with some help from an anthropomorphic pencil.

In this metafictive picture book, the illustrated version of the actual author/illustrator is stymied—she’s got to start a new book but doesn’t have any ideas. Cleverly opening with three back-to-back double-page spreads that function like a camera zooming out, it shows the metafictive author sitting at her worktable, staring into space. She admits to her dog, Sweet Pea, that she has no ideas. The dog sagely replies, “Why didn’t you just ask your pencil for help?” And, voilà, pencil springs to assistance. With the pencil encouraging her, “You could start by drawing some recent adventures,” the two begin to create their story. That is, until the imaginary characters take over. The book’s design, black-outlined illustrations often within panels and with dialogue bubbles for characters’ speech, has the look of a simple graphic novel. There are cute sight gags, and the dialogue bubbles are lively and often funny. The insertion of narrative conflict (which the pencil says a story needs and Sweet Pea rejects, insisting they’re all friends) is slyly effective. The ending, though, is disappointing, failing to bring the story to a conclusion that is likely to satisfy readers, though the protagonist and Sweet Pea are happy with it. The protagonist has beige skin and brown hair; other human characters are illustrated with both lighter and darker skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 35% of actual size.)

A mostly entertaining romp, but the ending underwhelms. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59643-589-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Thank you, Gerald and Piggie. We’ll miss you

THE THANK YOU BOOK

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Piggie is “one lucky pig,” and she’s determined to make sure she thanks “everyone who is important to” her in this, the final Elephant & Piggie book.

Gerald is sure his friend will forget someone—“someone important”—but Piggie assures him, “It will be a THANK-O-RAMA!” Piggie proceeds to thank the Squirrels for their great ideas, Snake for playing ball, and the Pigeon “for never giving up.” Piggie thanks and thanks: “I am a thanking machine!” She thanks character after character, even the Flies (“Any time, dude!”), as Gerald continues to interject that she’ll forget “someone VERY important.” Finally Piggie runs out of thanks, and by this time Gerald is steamed. “I goofed,” Piggie says in itty-bitty type, before lavishing thanks on Gerald. But that’s not whom Piggie forgot to thank! A classic Willems tantrum later, Gerald reveals the “someone important”: “Our reader.” Of course. “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” says Gerald, earnestly looking out from the page, and Piggie chimes in, “You are the best!” As Elephant & Piggie books go, this isn’t one of the strongest, but it is a validating valediction to fans of the two characters, who have won Willems two Geisel Medals and five Honors. Yes, Gerald and Piggie have ushered countless readers into literacy, but as they rightly note, reading is a collaborative act.

Thank you, Gerald and Piggie. We’ll miss you . (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7828-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

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Funny but ultimately ineffective as either a joke book or a story.

TWO-HEADED CHICKEN

In this romp through the multiverse, Angleberger asks readers to imagine a universe where they are a two-headed chicken.

It sounds like the start of a silly joke. One head—the reader’s—is generally very stupid; the other—belonging to the reader’s sister—is generally very smart. The alleged plot hops universes with every chapter as the eponymous plucky cluck attempts to escape an “enraged moose named KERNEL ANTLERS” whose mission in life is to fry and eat the chicken. Various bizarre creatures and historical figures offer obfuscating commentary on the chicken’s shenanigans or guidance, and finally, a hypothetical reader, fed up with their aimless escapades and thwarted jokes, threatens to abandon the book and erase the chicken from existence in every multiverse if they don’t buck up and face the moose. Will our intrepid hero prevail? Readers may never know—at least, not in their universe. Scattered self-deprecation may not have been unwarranted, as there’s very little within the book to capture readers’ attention (aside from reading on to learn whether a plot will ever coalesce). Myriad potentially exciting worlds and plotlines are touched on but never explored, and the characters are too flat to allow readers to become invested in their plights. The bold, expressive art, almost reminiscent of margin doodles, does the lion’s share of the storytelling. A few interactive pages offer amusing diversions but feel rather out of place.

Funny but ultimately ineffective as either a joke book or a story. (author’s note) (Graphic novel. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2321-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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