A picture book for The Office–loving adults to read by themselves.

THE OFFICE

A DAY AT DUNDER MIFFLIN ELEMENTARY

An earnest but incompetent kid strives to bring order to his elementary school classroom in this picture-book companion to the TV show The Office.

When Michael Scott is appointed class Line Leader at Dunder Mifflin Elementary, he has his mom fashion him a sippy cup that reads “World’s Best Line Leader.” A kid named Dwight observes the chaos in the classroom—which is mystifyingly devoid of adults for the entire book—and tells Michael he might need some help. Other kids agree. Accepting Dwight as Assistant to the Line Leader, Michael proceeds to tell Angela to plan a party to be held in five minutes’ time and then struggles to fulfill his function by lining the kids up. Several pages of ineffectual lining-up later, Pam suggests Michael ask for help. A brainstorming session yields several ideas, including “beet harvesting,…pretzel toppings, cuteness, [and the] buddy system.” As Michael surveys his classmates happily eating cake, he concludes, “I lead a great class.” In Demmer’s cartoon illustrations, all the kids have a bobblehead look, with wide, staring eyes; most, including Michael, present White. Periodically the narrative stops to allow one or two students to break the fourth wall and comment on the action in some fashion. These interruptions are in keeping with the TV show’s formula but do not provide enough scaffolding to allow child readers to understand what’s going on; nonsensical dialogue (“A mistake plus Keleven equals seven!”) likewise excludes children from the joke. Adult readers with familiarity with the TV series may find it hilarious. Readers with no familiarity—that is, just about every single kid in this book’s putative audience—will not. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.4-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.5% of actual size.)

A picture book for The Office–loving adults to read by themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42838-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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