Unpleasant…unless you love truly gross humor.

A IS FOR APPLE, UNLESS . . .

Hold your nose while two siblings take readers from A to Z.

Rendered with oversized heads on small bodies, the pale, dark-haired siblings assign a word to each letter of the alphabet in seemingly conventional fashion (“A is for Apple”), but each entry is followed by an “unless…” or its semantic equivalent: “unless you’re being chased / by a bloodsucking vampire, / then A is for AAAAAAGGHHH!!!” The insolent, petulant short-haired sibling is fond of sister-taunting, chasing her in a vampire costume and, later, scaring her with a dangling reptile when “S is for Snake.” The same child also throws a fit to get some ice cream, informing readers, “if you scream loud enough (and long enough), you’ll probably get some.” There’s a heavy dose of potty humor—instances of “doo-doo,” poop, pee, (lots of) farting, and undies—as well as repeated vomiting and nose-picking. Some of the entries are a stretch, making for a disjointed text: A monkey suddenly appears when “M is for Monkey / unless you have mountains of money. / Then M can be for whatever you want.” Per abecedary best practices, the capital and lowercase versions of each letter are included, but the book is primarily about grubby horseplay and mean-spirited pranks, not so much for teaching phonemic awareness or building vocabulary. Aiming for irreverent and mischievous, the book meets those marks, but little about the story or characters is likable. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Unpleasant…unless you love truly gross humor. (Picture book. 5-8.)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944903-97-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A celebration of letters that gently gives young readers the knowledge and tools to share the love.

HOW TO SEND A HUG

Hugs are for everyone anytime they need a little extra love, but how can you hug a person who lives far away?

Talking on the phone or via computer isn’t enough, but luckily Artie shares a way to send a hug—by writing a letter. Infused with the love a hug carries, these step-by-step instructions begin with finding the right writing implement and paper and taking plenty of time for this important task. The story then follows the letter’s journey from the mail drop through a variety of possible transports (“by two legs and four legs, by four wheels and two wheels”) to the magic of delivery and the even greater joy of getting a reply. Readers as lucky as Artie will receive a return letter that carries the scent of its writer, like Grandma Gertie’s missive, filled with rose petals. Fun wording, like putting the letter in a “special jacket to keep it safe and warm” (an envelope), sticking “a ticket” on the envelope “in just the right spot” (a stamp), and the letter being picked up by a “Hug Delivery Specialist” (postal worker), adds humor, as does Artie’s ever present pet duck. Artie and Grandma Gertie present White; the postal workers and the other people depicted receiving letters throughout are racially and geographically diverse. The realistic illustrations in pencil, watercolor, and digital color expand the story and add a layer of love and humor. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A celebration of letters that gently gives young readers the knowledge and tools to share the love. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-30692-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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