A rhyming bullying tale with some worthwhile lessons.

MONSTER NEEDS TO GO TO SCHOOL

From the Monster & Me series

Monster and his little boy tackle Monster’s first day of school.

The big blue beast, resembling one of Sendak’s Wild Things, is a quivering mess at the thought of school, but he quickly settles in and begins to learn and enjoy himself—until he observes his classmates bullying another kid, that is. “He made some friends at recess, who invited him to play. / But when he saw them teasing, he spoke up without delay. / ‘I know we’re friends, but teasing’s wrong. / It’s something I despise, / No one should be ridiculed. There is no compromise.’ ” At these words, his new friends change their ways. Readers may point out that it’s easy for a big blue monster to stand up to bullies but harder for regular kids, but the fact that Monster has feelings just like them will go a long way to making this credible, and Czajak spells it out when he writes “The teasing stopped when Monster / said he wouldn’t go along.” Grieb’s digital artwork plays up Monster’s size and expressions, and the class is diverse. Young readers may need their own educations to tackle some of the vocabulary here—“motivation,” “pursue,” “monumental”—and the rhyming text sometimes stumbles. Still, Monster’s message is an important one, and his boy has a valuable point: “It’s hard to deal with bullies, even harder / when they’re friends.”

A rhyming bullying tale with some worthwhile lessons. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-938063-74-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Mighty Media

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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