Well-intentioned but ultimately lacking in kid appeal.

MY KICKS

A SNEAKER STORY!

They’re shredded, stained, and stinky. A New York City kid’s favorite sneakers, or “kicks,” have lived an action-packed life.

Skateboarding, tree-climbing, and puddle-splashing have taken their toll. The young black boy is devastated when Mom declares the need for new shoes. He regales his mother with stories about each and every scuff, tear, and splatter as she drags him downtown. In the store the boy rejects all choices, but Mom is adamant. Disgruntled, the child points at random and is pleasantly surprised with the results. The shiny yellow kicks make him jump higher, run faster, and feel just right. The old red canvas shoes are finally retired to a place of honor. Verde’s overlong story stretches credulity in asking readers to believe that a young boy’s shoes will last from summer to summer without getting outgrown. It’s difficult to engage with the nameless boy, whose uneven first-person narration ranges from childlike exclamations (“It was awesome! I RULED that day!”) to adult nostalgia (“These sneakers have soul in their soles. Joy in each hole”). Kath’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are dynamic, but the facial features are fairly generic. The “Shoe-Tying Guide” touted on the dust jacket is printed on the cover instead of on the endpapers, a design flaw that renders the guide virtually inaccessible to library users because most institutions affix the jacket to the book.

Well-intentioned but ultimately lacking in kid appeal. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2309-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Preachy but cheerful.

SWIM BARK RUN

Three canine friends encourage one another to complete a dog-oriented triathlon.

Daisy, a little bulldog, enjoys watching her owners compete in triathlons in which they swim, ride bikes, and then run. After one such race, Daisy, eager to be in one herself, decides to create a triathlon for her doggy friends and invites dachshund Rascal, Dalmatian Hobie, and corgi Atticus to participate. Following the human version, the dogs will swim across a pond, skateboard on the sidewalk around the pond, and finally run on the wooded trail through their favorite park to the finish line. When the race’s course becomes increasingly difficult, they cheer one another on to give it their all. Daisy approaches her final big hill and almost gives in to her fatigue, climbing slowly until she is greeted by Brian, one of her owners (depicted as a white man), standing at the top, which gives her confidence to finish. With announcer Rascal’s enthusiastic affirmation—“Swim, bark, run! Did everyone have fun?”—Daisy realizes that the enjoyment of a triathlon is about setting and accomplishing goals at one’s pace. The writing is pedestrian at best, and the illustrations don’t always work with the text (one dog character is introduced visually pages before the text mentions her, for instance). Still, the affable, animation-style cartoons in verdant spring colors brighten the overall message of dogged perseverance with the aid of friendship and teamwork.

Preachy but cheerful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2696-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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An upbeat introduction to the scrappy origins of a little-known bit of American musical history.

STALEBREAD CHARLIE AND THE RAZZY DAZZY SPASM BAND

Drawing from the little that’s known about Emile “Stalebread Charlie” Lacoume, Mahin presents a fictionalized story about the homeless New Orleanian boys who innovated “spasm band” music, considered one of jazz’s precursors.

In 1895, Stalebread and pal Warm Gravy, both white, live in Storyville, which “smelled like trash and looked like trouble.” The boys steal to eat, constantly dodging the coppers. Hearing a trio playing one night, Stalebread hatches an idea. “Gravy! We’ll start a band. We’ll never be hungry again!” With an old stovepipe to sing through and a pebble-filled can to shake, the boys debut their rhythms—to the neighborhood’s general disdain. “No one liked their music. Not even the alley cats.” A boy called Cajun (the band’s sole kid of color) joins up with his “comb-made kazoo.” Pennywhistler Monk is next, followed by kids on washboard, spoons, and cigar-box fiddle. Though more often chased off than cheered, the boys’ luck finally turns when they bravely improvise for patrons at Mac’s Restaurant and Saloon. Mahin’s jaunty narrative uses occasional rhyme, and onomatopoeic words scroll through in arcing display type. Illustrator Tate’s note mentions finding supporting research for his intentional visual diversity: Among the diverse denizens of Storyville, he depicts a black cop. The text ends abruptly, but Mahin’s note adds lively details.

An upbeat introduction to the scrappy origins of a little-known bit of American musical history. (craft activity) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-547-94201-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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