The strain of trying to cover too much territory shows in this patchwork import.

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GRANDPA'S GARDEN

A two-part home-garden manual for British and like climes, with a thin fictive overlay on the first half.

Young Billy recounts the pleasures of working with his grandpa in a “vegetable patch at the garden’s end” from late winter through fall. His gee-whiz narration often waxes pedantic: “I spy slimy slugs and snails. Caterpillars too! And I see aphids and blackflies, feasting on young, frail leaves.” Once the patch is put to sleep, Fry drops the perfunctory plot completely and goes on to recap, season by season, general gardening agendas for adults and for children on facing pages. In Moxley’s similarly stiff art, generic figures with, generally, fixed expressions pose amid sharply regimented rows of growing but thinly planted veggies. (Despite several references to flowers there are none to be seen, except for a spindly row of daffodils.) Aside from not using mulch, Grandpa gardens organically. Readers may well find themselves confused. Not only does the garden in the first part not match the suggested plan in the second, the author mentions crops that Grandpa doesn’t happen to grow, like raspberries and sweetcorn. Furthermore, the instructions to plant broad beans in the fall (only possible where winters are mild, and for a fall crop, which she doesn’t mention) and to check for hedgehogs before lighting bonfires aren’t the only ones not suitable for most North American gardens.

The strain of trying to cover too much territory shows in this patchwork import. (Instructional picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84686-053-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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