Cute concept; uneven execution.

CATCH THAT COOKIE!

Some peripatetic gingerbread men make a believer of a skeptical grade schooler.

Mrs. Gray’s class has been listening to variations on “The Gingerbread Man” all week in preparation for a cooking activity. Marshall knows it’s all hooey—cookies can’t run. The kids mix, cut and decorate before Mrs. Gray “locks” the gingerbread men in the oven…but when the oven is opened, the cookies have vanished. A series of rhymed clues takes the kids around the school in pursuit. Though initially Marshall suspects that Mrs. Gray has cooked up a literacy exercise to get between the kids and their cookies, a stray raisin makes him wonder—and then he notices hundreds of gingerbread footprints on the floor of the gym. Those “G-men” must be napping in the doll corner after all that running! Durand has created an attractive protagonist in Marshall; his skepticism is exactly age-appropriate, as is his pride in the way he “rocks” the dough. Small’s loose, line-and-watercolor cartoons feature a freckled, redheaded Caucasian boy with expressive eyebrows. (Mrs. Gray is also white, but her classroom is multiethnic.) There’s something a little half-baked about the story, though; although the buildup to the discovery of the cookies is effective, the denouement sags: Just what is going to happen to all these apparently sentient cookies? A closing vignette showing Marshall about to bite his cookie’s head off is downright disquieting.

Cute concept; uneven execution. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-525-42835-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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