THE PLAYGROUNDS OF BABEL

A new take on the Babel tale featuring friendship, song, and a dragon.

Two children on a playground overhear an old woman telling a story. Since one child doesn’t understand her language, the other takes on the storytelling. The story differs from what the listener—and perhaps readers—is familiar with: After the people of Babel build their tower, “God sent a dragon to destroy the tower, and then God made it impossible for people to understand each other—by making new languages for everyone.” The translating child continues, describing how sudden linguistic barriers did nothing to dim the friendship between two young girls of Babel. Through song, the two discovered how to communicate once more. Conveyed entirely through dialogue, back-and-forth questioning between listening child and translating child moves the action forward but also prompts musings on belief and story. “None of it is realistic. It’s a story, not reality.…No one’s asking you to believe, just imagine.” Grobler’s mixed-media work illustrates the narrative layers. He sticks primarily to an inky palette for the playground action while illuminating the Babel tale with bright watercolor and colored pencil. Just as the skeptical child concedes, “That sounds realistic,” the illustrator injects color into the playground. Languages are denoted by different symbol sets rather than lettering, and the cast of characters is diverse in skin color and dress, including both pairs of friends.

A conversation starter. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-036-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Here’s hoping there will be a bunch of Baloney in the future.

BALONEY AND FRIENDS

From the Baloney & Friends series , Vol. 1

A new chapter-book series promises tons of fun for everyone.

Baloney the pig couldn’t be happier about starring in his very own book—until pals Peanut D. Horse, Bizz E. Bee, and Krabbit (a crabby rabbit) crash the introduction, leaving him frustrated. Baloney perseveres and goes on to star in several, short comic book–style stories that often break the fourth wall and that always rely on the very different personalities of the characters to deliver humor. Peanut is a Pollyanna and just a bit daffy. Bizz is a sensible, thoughtful bee-ing. Krabbit is so crabby he’d give Oscar the Grouch a run for his money. Baloney? Well, Baloney is a sensitive sort who, in two longer episodes, wants to entertain his friends with a magic show and join in their fun at swimming. Shorter “mini-comics” between these sections provide good breaks for new readers who are, perhaps, just starting to make their ways through a longer text like this. Pizolli saves the strongest story for last, delivering a sweet and satisfying portrait of Peanut’s kindness to her friend Baloney when he feels blue. And readers needn’t feel blue themselves that the story is over since they can follow handy backmatter instructions to draw their own versions of the simple, line-drawn characters.

Here’s hoping there will be a bunch of Baloney in the future. (Graphic fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-05454-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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An amusing, high-energy outing that teaches an important nature lesson.

OUT IN THE WILD!

A GRAPHIX CHAPTERS BOOK

From the Bug Scouts series , Vol. 1

A quartet of anthropomorphic invertebrates attempt to earn scout badges in the great outdoors.

Lowery kicks off his graphic early chapter book series with a scout’s oath: “All bugs are awesome / and that is a fact. / Raise your leg or antenna / and let’s make a pact.” Four “bug scouts” (two of whom are technically not bugs) introduce themselves; Josh the spider joins Abby the earthworm and Doug (“some kind of bug”) in welcoming Luna the firefly to their troop. The group sets out on a nature walk in order to find an edible plant, and a series of outdoorsy teaching moments culminates in a narrow escape from a (seemingly!) friendly frog: “Come back! I want to eat you! I mean…meet you!” Along with lots of silly jokes and banter and plenty of frantic action, the book delivers a cogent warning about the hazards of eating or sometimes even touching anything unidentified in nature. However, Lowery uses the words toadstool—a term typically reserved for any type of mushroom that is poisonous and thus inedible—and mushroom interchangeably, which may prejudice impressionable young readers against the edible type. Furthermore, some of the natural history presented in the text is a bit dubious. The very simply drawn cartoon art and big lettering make this book appropriate and appealing for beginner and newly independent readers.

An amusing, high-energy outing that teaches an important nature lesson. (Graphic early chapter book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-72633-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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