A collection of beautiful images and engaging ideas that never coheres.


Red Boots and Assorted Things

A small, hard-to-define work that falls somewhere between a picture book, a poetry collection, and an art portfolio.

On the cover of Ross and Usova’s (Teapots and Assorted Things, 2015) latest work, a multicolored fish with a human face, clad in red boots, promises a whimsical, fantastical journey. Inside, the whimsy and fantasy are indeed plentiful. Each two-page spread presents a unique concept with Ross’ stripped-down text on the left and Usova’s intricate, watercolor-and-ink illustrations on the right. Many of Ross’ one- or two-sentence ideas, presented in their entirety, would make wonderful first lines of longer poems or stories, such as the opener: “A long time ago, / we had a home in the sky.” The accompanying painting of a child on top of a house, surrounded by birds, will make readers to want to know more about that home. Turning the page, however, switches gears; an image of a different child, observed by a pair of owls, drops a red pacifier outside of a crib, and the text reads: “Gravity is fun. / It works every time.” Subsequent pages introduce other unrelated characters and concepts, such as “Drucilla’s new town was different,” or a fish “with a village on her back.” The images often hint at a story that isn’t conveyed in the text; for instance, an illustration of a charming, three-headed dragon is associated with the lines, “Let’s go here. / No, let’s go there. / No, let’s go everywhere.” Some longer segments could be considered complete poems with rhythm and rhyme that evoke Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, such as “The flying horses / neigh and dance and play. / I hope they stay.” But despite the combined images of children in a hot air balloon, surrounded by white, winged horses, the delightful idea in the text is never fully fleshed out. The rest of this poem consists of “Mom” saying that “tomorrow is another day / and more good things / will come our way.” This frustrating lack of development throughout the book prevents readers from fully inhabiting its imaginative worlds.

A collection of beautiful images and engaging ideas that never coheres.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2016


Page Count: 26

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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