A fine title for growing readers.



Timo the rabbit is eager to make his garden “great.”

Timo loves his garden, with its many flowers (an illustrated index names all those mentioned in the text) and “herbs for cooking, a lawn for visiting, and a bench for sitting and daydreaming.” Suddenly, though, it doesn’t seem special enough when he decides to participate in the upcoming garden tour. From one short chapter to the next, instead of spending time with friends, he frets and gardens, gardens and frets. Ultimately, Timo not only misses out on fun with friends, he’s also thwarted by poor weather when a rainstorm leaves the garden “a mess.” His friends rally to him help clean things up, but in what seems like an unnecessary twist, the garden tour is cancelled due to yet more (offstage) rain, and so Timo and his friends instead have a picnic and make plans for more gardening. A closing image of garden-tour judges at Timo’s gate suggests that all’s well in the end. Throughout, Griffiths’ richly colored illustrations depict anthropomorphic animals in a pastoral setting and include Timo’s lists of tasks on pages made to look like notebook paper. While the text isn’t controlled enough for brand new readers to decode, the brief chapters make the story accessible on a structural level.

A fine title for growing readers. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-927485-84-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.


Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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An elevated outing, perhaps a touch vague but, as ever, magnificently designed.



A pop-up invitation to dream big.

With his latest set of seemingly miraculous white pop-ups, Sabuda urges expansive life goals. Accompanying a flat image of a small pine cone, the phrase “When I grow up” concludes, with a page turn, “I will stand TALL,” next to a towering tree. “When I strive for my goals” (a small bee looping in for a landing) leads to a magnificent stand of finely petaled sunflowers and a satisfied “I will savor the outcome.” A bowl of eggs turns to a swirling flight of birds when dreams are shared; dreaming “of the future” transforms a bath toy into a great ship in full sail; a multileveled castle is the result when “I build my life”; and finally the “humble beginning” envisioned as a paper airplane becomes a rocket blasting off “to a life among the stars.” Younger viewers may be more inclined to admire the way each model unfolds and marvel at its intricate paper engineering than to embellish the metaphorical images with specific personal ambitions—but the wide-angled outlook may inspire at least some longer thoughts. It’s easy to imagine this giving Oh, the Places You’ll Go a run for its money as a perennial graduation gift.

An elevated outing, perhaps a touch vague but, as ever, magnificently designed. (Pop-up picture book. 7-9, adult)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6397-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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