With ingenuity and good will, sticks and stones can be turned to better uses than breaking bones—but the tale demands...

DAVE'S ROCK

Cavemen compare rocks, try to top each other, finally invent fun game.

“This Dave. / Dave love rock. / … / Dave’s rock bigger” than Jon’s rock. But “Jon’s rock faster” when thrown. Both pick up new rocks, with unsatisfactory results. Then Jon suggest both carve rocks into same round shape and Dave add hole in middle—make fine game tossing at upright stick! Jon and Dave go off arm in arm. Considering that Preston-Gannon starts the episode off with a quote from Mark Twain (“Name the greatest of all the inventors: accident”), the stilted language (carried over from Dave’s Cave, 2018) seems particularly affected, and the two light-skinned cave guys, with their Flintstones-style animal skins and shaggy manes (Dave’s, for some reason, is green) certainly are. Still, it’s salutary to see an escalating conflict resolved in an amicable, even creative way, and a bit of wordless byplay in which a set of forest creatures invent a wheeled scooter with the discarded game pieces adds a droll finish. The diagrams the animals draw in the dirt make an especially funny counterpoint to the dialogue.

With ingenuity and good will, sticks and stones can be turned to better uses than breaking bones—but the tale demands readers who are patient with cavespeak. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0271-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true.

KAFKA AND THE DOLL

An imagining of an unlikely real-life episode in the life of absurdist Franz Kafka.

Theule follows the outline of the account: When Kafka meets an unhappy girl in a Berlin park in 1923 and learns her doll is lost, Kafka writes a series of letters from Soupsy, the doll, to Irma, the girl. The real letters and the girl’s identity have been lost to history; the invented letters describe a dazzling variety of adventures for Soupsy. Unfortunately, as the letters increase in excitement, Kafka’s health declines (he would die of tuberculosis in June 1924), and he must find a way to end Soupsy’s adventures in a positive way. In an author’s note, readers learn that Kafka chose to write that Soupsy was getting married. Theule instead opts to send the doll on an Antarctic expedition. Irma gets the message that she can do anything, and the final image shows her riding a camel, a copy of Metamorphosis peeking from a satchel. While kids may not care about Kafka, the short relationship between the writer and the little girl will keep their interest. Realizing that an adult can care so much about a child met in the park is empowering. The stylized illustrations, especially those set in the chilly Berlin fall, resemble woodcuts with a German expressionist look. The doll’s adventures look a little sweeter, with more red and blue added to the brown palette of the German scenes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 23% of actual size.)

This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true. (biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11632-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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