A right jolly paean to the deliciousness of words.

READ REVIEW

THE WORD PIRATES

A tale of vocabulary-related piratical chicanery doubles as a touching ode to the deceased author Margaret Mahy.

Hungry pirates are nothing to mess with under ordinary circumstances, and these buccaneers are absolutely not ordinary. Capt. Rottingbones and his crew crave but one substance for their meals: words! With their Bumblebirds trained to steal from writers and books, the crew feasts on words both long (“antidisestablishmentarianism”) and short (“pop”). Their doom comes when the captain sets his sights on a rainbow-wigged New Zealand “Word Wizard” (a nod to Mahy, to whom this book is dedicated). Unafraid, she does battle with the pirates with her pen, ultimately chastening them and setting them on a new path in life. There is always room for one more tale about the power of the written word, and adding pirates to the mix lends a bit of spice and flavor to this one. Accompanying the rollicking storyline, Kellogg’s bright paintings, done in his signature style, fill his pages with busyness. The Bumblebirds look like white sea gulls, and the words they hunt droop from their beaks like dead fish. The pirates and other characters represent a variety of skin tones and genders while the Word Wizard and captain present white. One pirate has both an eye patch and a peg leg, but otherwise the captain’s crew is largely free of stereotype.

A right jolly paean to the deliciousness of words. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4359-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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THE SNOWY NAP

A hedgehog tries to stay awake for winter.

It’s almost time to hibernate, and Hedgie means to. But as he sniffs the chilly wind, farmyard animals taunt him about what he’ll miss. The hens’ coop will be “bedazzled by icicles”; the geese will joyfully “slip and slide across the pond ice”; the pony will pull a sleigh; snowflakes will fall, no two alike. The animals heckling Hedgie—hens, geese, sheep, pigs, a billy goat, a pony—are drawn with fine lines, hatchings, and textures. Because their faces are mostly realistic with only faint hints of anthropomorphism, their needling is subtle; some readers may hear their points as merely informative. Either way, Hedgie’s seized by FOMO: He decides to stay awake. When he accidentally nods off, farm girl Lisa brings him indoors and places him in a tea cozy on a windowsill. Nature will eventually run its course, but not before Hedgie finally glimpses “flowers of frost decorating his window,” the chicken coop “sparkl[ing] like a palace,” and Lisa pond-sliding with the geese. Brett’s watercolor-and-gouache illustrations feature both soft and bright colors, with fine lines and copious textures to peruse; the borders are characteristically fussy (braided yarn, pinking-shears edging, oval insets) but not distractingly so. Between the opulent farmhouse with decorative plates on the walls, the sleigh with sleigh bells, and the lack of adults, combined with a comfortably heated interior, this is a winter idyll. Lisa presents white.

Amiable. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17073-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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