Readers will roll up for repeats, and not just because of the name on the cover.


Hanging out with grandad turns out to be anything but boring after he pulls out a very special compass and takes everyone on a magical mystery tour.

A “gray and drizzly” day takes a series of exciting turns for Lucy, Tom, Em, and Bob—a racially diverse quartet of sibs (or maybe cousins) in Durst’s fluid, informal cartoon scenes—after grizzled Grandude strides into the room. He has a compass that transports him and the “Chillers” with a “zing, bang, sizzle” to a beach, a desert, and a Swiss mountainside. Like the economical text, which aside from a quick refrain is all in prose, experiences at each stop take on a certain pattern as the children thrice enjoy their new setting but then need a quick spin of the compass to escape a flood of pinchy red crabs, mount horses but narrowly avoid a bison stampede, then abandon a picnic to clamber atop an obliging flying cow when an avalanche threatens. Despite the allusive title (and the “Grandude” moniker, which McCartney admits he cribbed from his own grandkids) there’s no sign of the self-absorption that often rides celebrity picture books. Ultimately, the genial tour guide, who is white but otherwise looks nothing like the author and even plays guitar right-handed, spins the compass one final time to deliver the weary Chillers back home.

Readers will roll up for repeats, and not just because of the name on the cover. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-64867-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2019

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.


Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen.


Words addressed to children aimed at truth-telling, encouraging, and inspiring are accompanied by pictures of children of color going about their days.

“This story is about you,” the narrator opens, as a black boy looks up toward readers, a listening expression on his face. A multiracial group of children romp in a playground to encouraging words: “you are… / a dancer / a singer / in charge of the game.” Then comes a warning about the “whispers” out in the world that “tell you who you are / But only you and love decide.” There is advice about what to do when you “think there is nowhere safe”: “Watch a bird soar / and think, / Me too.” It asks readers to wonder: “If there was a sign on your chest / what would it say?” Children argue and show frustration and anger for reasons unclear to readers, then they hold up signs about themselves, such as “I am powerful” and “I am talented.” A girl looks hurt, and a boy looks “tough” until someone finds them “sitting there wondering / when the sky will blue.” While the words are general, the pictures specify a teacher, who is brown-skinned with straight black hair, as one who “can see you.” While young readers may find the wording unusual, even obscure in places, the nurturing message will not be lost.

Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-021-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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