A right jolly paean to the deliciousness of words.

THE WORD PIRATES

A tale of vocabulary-related piratical chicanery doubles as a touching ode to the deceased author Margaret Mahy.

Hungry pirates are nothing to mess with under ordinary circumstances, and these buccaneers are absolutely not ordinary. Capt. Rottingbones and his crew crave but one substance for their meals: words! With their Bumblebirds trained to steal from writers and books, the crew feasts on words both long (“antidisestablishmentarianism”) and short (“pop”). Their doom comes when the captain sets his sights on a rainbow-wigged New Zealand “Word Wizard” (a nod to Mahy, to whom this book is dedicated). Unafraid, she does battle with the pirates with her pen, ultimately chastening them and setting them on a new path in life. There is always room for one more tale about the power of the written word, and adding pirates to the mix lends a bit of spice and flavor to this one. Accompanying the rollicking storyline, Kellogg’s bright paintings, done in his signature style, fill his pages with busyness. The Bumblebirds look like white sea gulls, and the words they hunt droop from their beaks like dead fish. The pirates and other characters represent a variety of skin tones and genders while the Word Wizard and captain present white. One pirate has both an eye patch and a peg leg, but otherwise the captain’s crew is largely free of stereotype.

A right jolly paean to the deliciousness of words. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4359-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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