Poor Sam and Dave. Lucky readers.

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SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE

When Sam and Dave dig a hole, readers get “something spectacular.”

The boys, on the other hand, do not. Their quest to find the spectacular brings them painfully and humorously close to buried jewels as they spade their way into the ground, accompanied by an intrepid canine companion. Readers occupy a superior position as cross-section illustrations reveal those jewels buried just out of the shovels’ reach. Each time they near one, the increasingly grubby boys maddeningly change course. On they dig, tunneling in different directions, and each effort reveals (to readers) yet larger jewels evading them. Exhausted, they fall asleep, but the dog digs after a bone it senses below. In an unexpected turn, the ground gives way to nothingness, and the trio falls through empty space “until they landed in the soft dirt.” At first glance, it seems they’ve ended up where they began: A small tree stands on the recto, and a house with a porch is on the verso, as before. But careful readers will notice that the tree here bears pears, while the tree at the story’s start had apples. Other differing details (a weathervane duck instead of a chicken; a blue flower instead of a red one; a blue cat collar instead of a red) suggest that they’ve unwittingly fallen into another dimension.

Poor Sam and Dave. Lucky readers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6229-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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An action-packed romp.

EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE BAD DAYS

Superheroes deal with their emotions.

What happens when the empowered have a terrible day? Becker posits that while they could go on destructive sprees and wreak havoc, the caped crusaders and men and women of steel harness their energies and direct it in constructive ways. Little readers filled with energy and emotion may learn to draw similar conclusions, but the author doesn’t hammer home the message. The author has much more fun staging scenes of chaos and action, and Kaban clearly has a ball illustrating them. Superheroes could use laser vision to burn down forests and weather powers to freeze beachgoers. They could ignore crime sprees and toss vehicles across state lines. These hypothetical violent spectacles are softened by the cartoonish stylizations and juxtaposed with pages filled with heroic, “true” efforts such as rounding up criminals and providing fun at an amusement park. The illustrations are energetic and feature multicultural heroes. The vigorous illustrations make this a read for older children, as the busyness could overwhelm very little ones. While the book’s formula recalls How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and its many sequels, the relative scarcity of superhero picture books means there’s a place on the shelf for it.

An action-packed romp. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1394-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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