A PLACE FOR MIDDLE

Younger readers unsatisfied with the rather evasive answer offered to a middle child in Barbara Shook Hazen’s Who’s Your Favorite Monster, Mama?, illustrated by Maryann Kovalski (2006), may be happier with this take on the topic, though their bookend siblings probably won’t. Feeling trapped in the middle—“Not useful here. Not useful there. No use for a Middle like me”—the narrator sets out from its clan of hairy, toothy, Ed Koren–like creatures to find its place. Having observed along the way that a sandwich without a middle is no lunch, and a bridge sans middle no bridge, the wanderer regains a sense of belonging by being rescued, taken home, plumped back down in its accustomed mid-sized chair and assured by everyone that “Without a Middle we’re no family at all.” Iffy as this idea might be, it carries a big dose of reassurance, and there’s a logic to the lunch and bridge bits that fretful human Middles might accept. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-340-88218-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT

A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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THE DOG THAT DUG FOR DINOSAURS

This easy reader for children reading at the fluency level recounts the story of a girl named Mary Ann Anning and her dog, Tray. They lived on the coast of England in the early 1800s, although the time frame is given only as “a long, long time ago.” Mary Ann and Tray became famous for their discoveries of fossils, including dinosaur bones. They discovered the first pterodactyl found in England, and the name was assigned to their fossil. The story focuses a little too much on the dog, and the title misses a great opportunity to completely acknowledge a girl accomplishing something important in the scientific world, especially in a much earlier era and without formal training or education. Despite this drawback, both Mary Ann and Tray are appealing characters and the discovery of the fossils and subsequent notice from scientists, collectors, and even royalty is appealing and well written. Sullivan’s illustrations provide intriguing period details in costumes, tools, and buildings, as well as a clever front endpaper of fossil-strewn ground covered with muddy paw prints. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85708-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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