Wacky racers zoom through an unconventional course. Who will win?

The row of cars at the starting line is a riot of color and a hodgepodge of shapes. “One car, so small, / squeezes in between them all.” The small red car is only half as big as those on either side. Each vehicle emits clouds of exhaust as the race begins. “Go! Go! Go!” The course is wild. There’s an enormous golden cat-shaped tunnel and an equally large birdbath spilling water. “Watch out for the waterfall!” Another tunnel, a landslide, and a big red locomotive running side by side with the cars provide more challenges for the determined speedsters. “Ramp up, fast lane… / try to beat the moving train!” Butterflies and bees hover overhead, and the small red car’s almost blocked by what looks like a giant hose. In the home stretch, the race tightens. The little car drives right off a cliff, landing on the track next to car No. 12, in the lead. Suddenly: “Maaaxwellll…” and a wide-angle view shows a backyard, where a small white boy is holding that little red car in his hand. Ohhhhh. Clues along the way should help children figure out the surprise twist, and readers will love flipping back and forth to see the play between Maxwell’s imagination and real life. Fliess’ crunchy, rhyming text will have readers barreling along.

Energetic automotive fun. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0237-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A semiclever twist that lends itself to far more imaginative play in illustration than text.


As the title indicates, arboreal hijinks inspired by the classic rhyme.

The tale begins recognizably enough: “Here is the boy / up in the tree / where he built a house / overlooking the sea.” Then there is a pesky fly, followed by a lizard that snaps at that fly. But the narrative halts its cumulative efforts partway through to take a different turn. Jack has built a treehouse full of pulleys, levers, ropes and ladders. There is a rabbit, enticed by a carrot on a string, who powers a device to fan the monkey. Not to mention the speedy pineapple-delivery system for the squirrels. Verburg interrupts the expected rhyme to falteringly point out the wonders of the treehouse as the cat “jumps on the swings, / the ladder, the birdbath, / the marvelous things / Jack made with his tools.” The invitation to closely inspect Teague’s saturated art is unnecessary. Readers will be eagerly peering through branches to catch all the details of their own accords. The cumulative narration begins again, only to be halted by the storytime bell; however, this time the rhythm is better preserved. Jack, in fact, reads the same story that they are all in!

A semiclever twist that lends itself to far more imaginative play in illustration than text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-439-85338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A tiny tug…on the heartstrings.


A perky little tug puts her brawn, and brains, to good use.

“[C]hugging through the waves on the bright blue water,” a little tugboat named Scout starts her day. Whether it’s a container ship, a cruise ship, or a freighter, she’s always there to help. But what’s this? A massive oil tanker’s engine has failed, and it’s headed toward the rocks. Scout tries to help, but the scope of the endeavor overwhelms her. Eschewing the go-it-alone attitude of the Little Engine That Could, Scout realizes that this is one job too big. She calls upon her fellow tugs to lend a hand, showing that sometimes it takes a crew. No doubt young fans of things that float will find much to enjoy, as this cozy maritime tale offers just enough mild thrills to excite without alarm. Adult readers will probably feel even more keenly than their children the danger posed by the drifting oil tanker (particularly when they notice the dolphins, the pelican, the gull, the fish, and even the rather small whale that also inhabit the harbor). They may also note with pleasure that the book’s gendered ships are always identified as female, in keeping with nautical convention. The unchallenging cartoon art featuring anthropomorphic boats pleases without surprising.

A tiny tug…on the heartstrings. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7264-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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