Like a pun, this book will either go over really well or flop

THAT STINKS!

A PUNNY SHOW-AND-TELL

Katz’s (sub)titular show and tell has a room full of racially diverse students making proclamations that would normally get them sent to the principal’s office, giving this book a forbidden-fruit vibe.

A cold and rainy day prompts Mrs. Mueller to cancel recess and hold show and tell instead. Jimmy’s response? “That stinks!” The class gasps, mouths agape, but Jimmy is just referring to the item he’s sharing: his pet skunk. “Aw, nuts!” says Susie: she shows off a bowl of several kinds. And so it goes, each student turning a potentially inflammatory comment into an innocuous one, though some are more jaw-dropping than others—“This totally bites!”—and some are just downright cheesy (literally). And the nerds are easily pinpointed: Monica shows off her gross of pencils, and Thomas displays an electrical circuit (“Shocking!”). Gilpin proves he is a master of both facial expressions and kids’ body language; a raised eyebrow here and a crinkled nose there exude disgust, and there’s no child who won’t recognize the talk-to-the-hand gesture accompanied by upward-looking eyes that he does so well in his digital illustrations. But Katz’s text is not as strong. One wonders how the kids came to have these items in school (especially the pet skunk and the family’s dinner garbage) when the activity is presented as an impromptu decision. The items also seem to be chosen more for their pun-ability than as a reflection of kids’ reality.

Like a pun, this book will either go over really well or flop . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7880-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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