This celebration of a child’s agency in choosing a means of artistic expression strikes just the right note.

88 INSTRUMENTS

Finding just the right instrument to play means a lively trip to the music store to try them all out.

Of all the instruments that slide, squonk, blow, and honk, a young, white would-be musician must select just one. At first it’s a little overwhelming to be surrounded by 88 instruments. Patient parents stand by as the child experiments with an accordion, bagpipes, triangle, saxophone, harp, and drums. The variety of musical sounds is reinforced by rhymes reminiscent of Dr. Seuss: “Do I pick the squeeziest? / The wheeziest? / The easiest and breeziest?” The rhythmic, onomatopoeic text dances across exuberant watercolors with lots of movement. Characters and instruments are lightly drawn and set against a white background to great effect. Musicians will anticipate the outcome of this exuberant adventure from the title, as the child discovers the one instrument that captures the range of musical possibilities—the piano. For a book that targets the musically inclined, it’s unfortunate that design overshadows meaning in the cover art, where the title is backed by a bit of score that makes no musical sense, including two notes with ledger lines on spaces where they don't belong. The minor error can be overlooked in an otherwise delightful book.

This celebration of a child’s agency in choosing a means of artistic expression strikes just the right note. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53814-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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An early reader that kids will want to befriend.

NOT ME!

In an odd-couple pairing of Bear and Chipmunk, only one friend is truly happy to spend the day at the beach.

“Not me!” is poor Chipmunk’s lament each time Bear expresses the pleasure he takes in sunning, swimming, and other activities at the beach. While controlled, repetitive text makes the story accessible to new readers, slapstick humor characterizes the busy watercolor-and-ink illustrations and adds interest. Poor Chipmunk is pinched by a crab, buried in sand, and swept upside down into the water, to name just a few mishaps. Although other animal beachgoers seem to notice Chipmunk’s distress, Bear cheerily goes about his day and seems blithely ignorant of his friend’s misfortunes. The playful tone of the illustrations helps soften the dynamic so that it doesn’t seem as though Chipmunk is in grave danger or that Bear is cruel. As they leave at the end of the book Bear finally asks, “Why did you come?” and Chipmunk’s sweet response caps off the day with a warm sunset in the background.

An early reader that kids will want to befriend. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3546-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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