Think of it as a cautionary tale. If you can fix a chair, you can put away the skateboard.

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THE FIX-IT MAN

Stuff happens. Things break, but fixing them can be as much fun as breaking them, sometimes.

Young, bespectacled Joshua James is a fix-it kind of kid. Not only can he mend the chair and get the couch-pillow bridge back up, but he is an inventor as well. Getting out of bed can be a drag, so why not invent a Rube Goldberg–ian device to make the day’s entrance exciting? In Chung’s busy, clever illustrations, Joshua James’ cockamamie plans use physics and gerbils to get the job done. Hood’s text is a different matter. The rhymes are tired (“Joshua James is the Fix-It Man. / If he can’t fix it, no one can!”) and tonally out of sync with the smart ebullience of the illustrations. There are also elements of the narrative that are strangely wayward: when Joshua James’ baby sister runs afoul of a pulley, Joshua James apologizes; when Joshua James’ dad takes a header after stepping on a skateboard the Fix-It Man left on the walk, readers are told, “Everyone goofs, and things can break. / Even dads can make mistakes!” Yeah, Dad, watch where you’re walking. The characters all have brown hair and light skin.

Think of it as a cautionary tale. If you can fix a chair, you can put away the skateboard. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237085-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite.

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AFTER THE FALL (HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN)

Humpty Dumpty, classically portrayed as an egg, recounts what happened after he fell off the wall in Santat’s latest.

An avid ornithophile, Humpty had loved being atop a high wall to be close to the birds, but after his fall and reassembly by the king’s men, high places—even his lofted bed—become intolerable. As he puts it, “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Although fear bars Humpty from many of his passions, it is the birds he misses the most, and he painstakingly builds (after several papercut-punctuated attempts) a beautiful paper plane to fly among them. But when the plane lands on the very wall Humpty has so doggedly been avoiding, he faces the choice of continuing to follow his fear or to break free of it, which he does, going from cracked egg to powerful flight in a sequence of stunning spreads. Santat applies his considerable talent for intertwining visual and textual, whimsy and gravity to his consideration of trauma and the oft-overlooked importance of self-determined recovery. While this newest addition to Santat’s successes will inevitably (and deservedly) be lauded, younger readers may not notice the de-emphasis of an equally important part of recovery: that it is not compulsory—it is OK not to be OK.

A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-682-6

Page Count: 45

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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