CIRCUS GIRL

Bogacki’s simple, visual reminiscence about the beginnings of a boyhood friendship is, like his earlier picture-book memoir My First Garden (2000), nuanced and subtle. The first-person narrator recalls a marvelous week from childhood: a circus caravan comes to his small town, bringing a temporary classmate, the young acrobat that he remembers only as Circus Girl. The Circus Girl befriends both the narrator and Tim, “the smallest one in the class,” whose isolation from his classmates has been the one thing that anyone knew about him. Circus Girl’s impressive ability to balance while standing on an elephant and on a pony matches the seemingly easy grace with which she makes friends for herself and in the process creates friendship between the two boys. Expressive, gently hued drawings in what could be pastel and colored pencil recreate the moments in the narrative in irregularly shaped frames across each two-page opening. The frames, in soft focus as if remembered across time and distance, fill the space, each an impressionistic glimpse through a window of memory. Young readers will need a measure of patience to mine the depths of this quiet tale, but multiple readings will turn up new observations. Some will find it frustrating that the eponymous character remains nameless in the narrator’s retelling—she serves only as the catalyst for the friendship between the narrator and Tim. Still, her brief sojourn in the boys’ lives has a lasting effect. Understated and touching. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-31291-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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Good fun for all little ninjas and their parents.

NAUGHTY NINJA TAKES A BATH

After swinging out from the jungle after a long day of ninja-ing, Will makes his way home just in time for a bath. But as all ninjas know, danger lurks around every corner.

Even naughty ninjas get hungry, but Dad says, “Pee-yew,” and insists his little ninja get clean before going near a morsel. Ever the Naughty Ninja, Will follows his dad into the bathroom and immediately spies danger: Poisonous flies that have followed him from the jungle! As any parent would, his dad begs him not to say, “Ninja to the rescue,” because we all know what comes after a catchphrase…chaos! Through each increasingly rough rescue, Dad finds himself more and more defeated in his quest to complete bathtime, but ultimately he starts to find the infectious joy that only the ridiculousness of children can bring out in an adult. The art is bright and finds some nifty ninja perspectives that use the space well. It also places an interracial family at its center: Dad has brown skin and dark, puffy hair, and Mom is a white redhead; when out of his ninja cowl, Will looks like a slightly lighter-skinned version of his father. Kids will laugh at everything the dad is put through, and parents will knowingly nod, because we have all had nights with little ninjas soaking the bathroom floor. The book starts out a little text heavy but finds its groove quickly, reading smoothly going forward. Lots of action means it’s best not to save this one for bedtime.

Good fun for all little ninjas and their parents. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9433-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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AMAZING GRACE

Grace loves to act out her favorite stories, taking every part from Joan of Arc to Mowgli. But when her class learns that they will be doing Peter Pan, the other kids tell Grace she can't have the lead: Peter's neither black nor a girl. Fortunately, Nana and Ma have contagious confidence in Grace's ability, and at the tryouts the class also agrees that Grace is best. It's easy to catch the wholesomely assertive spirit here—as Binch does, in this excellent debut, with her detailed, realistic watercolors; vibrant Grace almost springs from the page. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8037-1040-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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