New readers deserve better.

LUNCH, OR WHAT'S THAT?

From the Freckleface Strawberry series

Moore lampoons school lunches in this early-reader series outing.

Both Freckleface Strawberry and her heavy friend Windy Pants Patrick (readers may well wonder about his name, as he is wearing shorts) love to eat. They love hot dogs, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, chicken fingers, and noodles. But neither especially likes to eat school lunches. One day, Freckleface sits down with an especially interesting-looking lunch consisting of a bowl of green noodles. In an unfunny schtick that’s repeated too many times, one by one three friends ask her what it is. “That is lunch.” “But what is it?” “I do not know.” Finally, after a teacher shushes them for yelling instead of eating, Freckleface digs in. And though she still may not know what lunch is, she does know that she likes it. Moore’s characters lack personality, though at least classmate Noah has a trait—yelling instead of talking—that makes him stand out from the others. And though the subject is near and dear to readers’ hearts, this treatment can’t hold a candle to the likes of True Kelley’s School Lunch (2005). Pham’s illustrations portray Freckleface, Windy Pants, and Noah as starkly white; Southeast Asian Winnie is Freckleface’s only friend of color. There are two other brown girls in the cafeteria, but they have no interactions with the main characters.

New readers deserve better. (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-39192-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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