A funny David-versus-Goliath story with a one-word question serving as the slingshot. (Picture book. 3-5)

WHY?

Doctor X-Ray, a megalomaniac with an X-ray blaster and an indestructible battle suit, crashes through the ceiling of the local mall.

Innocent patrons scatter to safety. But one curious child gazes directly at the bully and asks: “Why?” At first, Doctor X-Ray answers with all the menace and swagger of a supervillain. The curious child, armed with only a stuffed bear and clad in a bright red dress, is not satisfied with the answers and continues asking: “Why?” As his pale cheeks flush with emotion, Doctor X-Ray peels back the onion of his interior life, unearthing powerful reasons behind his pursuit of tyranny. This all sounds heavy, but the humorously monotonous questions coupled with free-wheeling illustrations by Keane set a quick pace with comical results. At 60 pages, the book has room to follow this thread back to the diabolical bully’s childhood. Most of the answers go beyond a child’s understanding—parental entertainment between the howl of the monosyllabic chorus. It is the digital artwork, which is reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s, that creates a joyful undercurrent of rebellion with bold and loose brush strokes, patches of color, and expressive faces. The illustrations harken to a previous era save for the thoroughly liberated Asian child speaking truth to power.

A funny David-versus-Goliath story with a one-word question serving as the slingshot. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6863-0

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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