A grown-up girl ingeniously solves a puzzle, winning something she deserves. The farmer has three grown children: brawny Franz, arms “as thick as branches,” beefy Hans, legs “as thick as tree trunks,” and Mary, “neither brawny nor beefy,” arms and legs “as slender as sticks.” Perplexed as to which son should run the farm when he dies—“because this was long, long ago… and everyone thought that girls couldn’t run farms”—the farmer gives each boy a penny and a challenge to “buy something that will fill the whole house.” After they fail, intelligent Mary insists on a penny too, purchasing a candle (which fills the house with light) and a penknife to whittle a reed into an instrument (which fills the house with music). Holland’s calm, playful mixed media feature stylized figures of pencil and collage on pale backgrounds. As Mary carves, golden reeds grow beside her, symbolizing her flourishing future farm; when she plays music indoors, a vertically lined yellow wall continues that theme. Gentle humor runs throughout, and everyone’s happy at the end. A sweet, artistic fable in the brains-over-brawn genre. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4768-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.


Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Desperation confused for hysterics.


Harris’ latest makes an urgent plea for somber reflection.

“Stop! Stop!! Stop!!!” Right from the get-go, readers are presented with three rules for reading this book (“Don’t look at this book!” “Do look at your listener!” “Get your listener to look at you!”). But the true lesson is in the title itself: If anyone listening to this book laughs, you have to start it all over. Challenge accepted? Good. Sheer frenetic energy propels what passes for a narrative as the book uses every trick up its sleeve to give kids the giggles. Silly names, ridiculous premises, and kooky art combine, all attempting some level of hilarity. Bloch’s art provides a visual cacophony of collaged elements, all jostling for the audience’s attention. Heavily influenced by similar fourth wall–busting titles like The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992) by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith, and the more contemporary The Book With No Pictures (2014) by B.J. Novak, these attempts to win over readers and make them laugh will result in less giggles than one might imagine. In the end, the ultimate success of this book may rest less on the art or text and more on the strength of the reader’s presentation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Desperation confused for hysterics. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-42488-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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