Combining graphic wit and wordplay, Niemann delivers a joyful package.

WORDS

The cartoonist and picture-book illustrator offers a chunky book of some 330 or so words, one per page, each illustrated by a cartoon.

Niemann introduces his effort by explaining that he hopes to make “the discovery of words as fun and inspiring” as that of images, which, he argues, are learned “through happenstance or playful discovery.” Many, though not all, of the double-page spreads ponder relationships. A child gazes hopefully at a cupcake on a shelf to illustrate “could” on verso, while on recto, a pair of adult hands offers the cupcake on a plate, illustrating “would.” Other relationships are more opaque or even evidently nonexistent. On the very next spread, a freaked-out face illustrates “what,” while opposite, a satisfied diner sits back smiling over a plate that contains only crumbs—evidently “good” ones. The author plays with homographs, as in one delightful spread in which a “long” dachshund dreams “long”ingly of a (very “long”) sausage. Some pictures require a beat or two to understand, as in the one of a smiling saucepan about to be covered by a similarly smiling lid—clearly made “for” it. Some words are far beyond elementary but are beautifully clear in illustration, as when a dismayed child regards a “scintilla” of ice cream (represented by an atom falling into a cone), while opposite, a figure marvels at the “Brobdingnagian” ice cream cone that dwarfs skyscrapers.

Combining graphic wit and wordplay, Niemann delivers a joyful package. (index, parts of speech) (Picture book. 5 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-245550-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

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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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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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