The artwork is captivating, finding the pen stroke is challenging, and the text will spark some animated conversation.

ONCE UPON A LINE

Great-Uncle George was a magician whose “enchanted pen” has created an array of fancifully surreal illustrations, each begun with the same-shaped pen stroke and each accompanied by a brief story starter.

Great-Uncle George’s mustachioed portrait appears next to a succinct history of the fictional magician and his special pen: “With this pen he would draw an ordinary line. That line turned into a painting. He drew the line many times and painted hundreds of paintings, but all that remains are the ones that you see in this book.” Readers are then invited to find that line—duplicated on the first page—and to “finish each story.” The colorful, absurd, detailed illustrations feature a fantastical array of characters—many of them anthropomorphic animals—in an intriguing style that defies easy classification. Each absorbing illustration includes a sentence or two, always beginning with the titular “Once upon a line” and ending with ellipses. Unfortunately, most “story starters” are so closely aligned with the art that they invite controlled, one-line responses rather than imaginative stories. For example, a hilarious depiction of a tiny knight atop an enormous, pink octopus is accompanied by, “Once upon a line, there was a knight who was allergic to horses. This was not a problem because….”

The artwork is captivating, finding the pen stroke is challenging, and the text will spark some animated conversation. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-9274-8578-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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