WILLIE’S BIRTHDAY

This title is part of Viking’s easy-to-read series, with characters inspired by Ezra Jack Keats. While Eitzen hues very close to the artwork of Keats, Suen must go farther afield than Keats’s wonderfully sparse, syncopated writing to fill the verbiage necessary to make this an early reader. A handful of children are invited over to Peter and Willie’s house to celebrate the dachshund’s birthday. Each child brings along a pet, and pretty soon the action revolves around trying to keep order in the gathering mayhem of dog, cat, bird, and fish. As the kids try to engage the animals in fun and games that would be appropriate for a human party, the animals resist: the cat will not wear a hat, thank you, and Willie is not happy to be blindfolded, even for a game of give-the-dog-a-bone. Ultimately, the cat goes after the fish, Willie goes after the cat, the cake crashes to the floor (but that doesn’t stop anyone from eating it). A fairly joyous little effort, one that keeps the words hopping to keep the readers reading: “Meow! purred the cat. She put her paw into the fishbowl. ‘My fish!’ said Susie. She let go of the blindfold. ‘Shoo! Shoo! Go away!’ Willie jumped out of Peter’s arms. Arf! Arf! he barked. Meow! went the cat.” As Peter says when he rescues the fishbowl, “Safe,” and not a bad idea for reaching a new audience. (Easy reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-88943-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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