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FIRST GRADE, HERE I COME!

A redheaded boy imagines the fun he will have in first grade if he just has five friends to share it with.

Johnston’s rhyming salute to a young boy’s imagination includes some activities that children may do in first grade—snack time, reading, math at the board, parading with cardboard drums, making paper chains, recess, being in a play, visiting the nurse—but the kids seem to spend more time playing than most first graders. Many of the verses force the rhymes, either by choosing words and making them fit (when pretending to be “big” astronauts—“space guys”—they have a “pig” mascot) or by relying on nonsense words or onomatopoeia: “I’ll need at least five friends to play / the Rubber Family. / We’ll stretch our faces and ourselves / like pretzels. Tee-hee-hee!” And why five friends? It’s never really clear why he needs exactly that many, and in the end, even he decides that he’d “rather be / good friends with—EVERYONE!” Walker’s artwork does a nice job of capturing the exuberance and activity of a group of first graders (though they don’t have the individual personalities of the kids in Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ illustrations for The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), written by Deborah Lee Rose), and the boy’s five friends are relatively diverse—one Asian child, two black children, two girls.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-20143-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH

This book’s gonna werk, werk, werk all through Pride Month and beyond.

Drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess rewrites “The Wheels on the Bus” to create a fun, movement-filled, family-friendly celebration of drag. The text opens with the titular verse to establish the familiar song’s formulaic pattern: “The hips on the drag queen go SWISH, SWISH, SWISH… / ALL THROUGH THE TOWN!” Along the way, more and more drag queens join in the celebration. The unnamed queens proudly display a range of skin tones, sizes, and body modifications to create a diverse cast of realistic characters that could easily be spotted at a Pride event or on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The palette of both costumes and backgrounds is appropriately psychedelic, and there are plenty of jewels going “BLING, BLING, BLING.” Don’t tell the queens, but the flow is the book’s real star, because it encourages natural kinetic participation that will have groups of young readers giggling and miming along with the story. Libraries and bookshops hosting drag-queen storytimes will find this a popular choice, and those celebrating LGBTQ heritage will also find this a useful book for the pre-K crowd. Curious children unfamiliar with a drag queen may require a brief explanation, but the spectacle stands up just fine on its own platforms.

Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6765-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968)...

MONSTERS AREN'T REAL

Beaten down by a ubiquitous chorus of denials (see title), a monster suffers an existential crisis.

Surrounded by emphatic claims that it doesn’t even exist, a monster sets out not only to prove the contrary, but to establish its scariness credentials too. Alas, neither blasting the world with graffiti and printed fliers nor rearing up menacingly over a baby in a carriage, children at the barre in a ballet class and other supposedly susceptible victims elicits any response. Juggling some cows attracts attention but not the terrified kind. But the monster’s final despairing surrender—“That’s it! It’s over! I give up! ... /  Monsters aren’t real (sniff)”—triggers an indignant denial of a different sort from a second, smaller but wilder-looking, creature. It takes the first in hand and leads it off, declaring “We’re two big, strong, scary monsters, and we’ll prove it.” In truth, it won’t escape even very young readers that neither is particularly scary-looking. Indeed, the protagonist-monster is depicted in the sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations as a furry, almost cuddly, bearlike hulk with light-blue spots, antlers and comically googly eyes, certain to provoke more giggles than screams.

A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968) so discomfiting. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61067-073-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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