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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 26

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!

Another Seuss-chimera joins the ranks of the unforgettable Herlar and with the advent of the Grinch— a sort of Yule Ghoul who lives in a cave just north of who-ville. While all the Who's made ready on Christmas Eve the Grinch donned a Santa-Claus disguise. In gurgling verse at a galloping gait, we learn how the Grinch stole the "presents, the ribbons, the wrappings, the tags, the tinsel and trappings," from all the Who's. But the Grinch's heart (two sizes too small) melted just in time when he realized that the Who's enjoyed Christmas without any externals. Youngsters will be in transports over the goofy gaiety of Dr. Seuss's first book about a villain — easily the best Christmas-cad since Scrooge. Inimitable Seuss illustrations of the Grinch's dog Max disguised as a reindeer are in black and white with touches of red. Irrepressible and irresistible.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1957

ISBN: 0394800796

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1957

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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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