For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a...

NATE LIKES TO SKATE

From the I Like To Read series

Degen attempts the daunting task of writing a satisfying story using just 49 words and avoiding singsong rhymes.

Nate, a gray, skateboarding kitten, and Kate, an orange kitten enamored of hats, experience a bobble in their friendship. Words in the “-ate” and “-at” word families are used repeatedly. Nate, skate, great, grate, hate, gate, wait, and late, and hat, that, flat, and even brat are repeated often enough that beginning readers will start to recognize and anticipate them and eventually read them. Observant readers will also find some of these words or their variants in the first few illustrations. The 33 sight words are all one syllable and are also used repeatedly. The book succeeds admirably as a beginning reader. Its success as a picture book is more problematic. The story is slight, and the central conflict—hurt feelings between friends—is quickly and arbitrarily resolved with Nate’s and Kate’s mutual apologies when feelings are hurt and subsequent appreciation of each other’s enthusiasms. Thankfully, this is accomplished without any preachy adult intervention. Some grown-ups may be uncomfortable with the recurrence of “hate” and “brat,” but children will appreciate the unvarnished feelings.

For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a nonpedantic beginning reader, Degen’s offering works well enough. (Picture book/early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3456-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and...

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THUNDER BOY JR.

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name.

The Native American boy is named after his father, whose nickname is Big Thunder. Thunder Boy Jr. says his nickname, Little Thunder, makes him "sound like a burp or a fart." Little Thunder loves his dad, but he longs for a name that celebrates something special about him alone. He muses, “I love playing in the dirt, so maybe my name should be Mud in His Ears.…I love powwow dancing. I’m a grass dancer. So maybe my name should be Drums, Drums, and More Drums!” Little Thunder wonders how he can express these feelings to his towering father. However, he need not worry. Big Thunder knows that the time has come for his son to receive a new name, one as vibrant as his blossoming personality. Morales’ animated mixed-media illustrations, reminiscent of her Pura Belpré Award–winning work in Niño Wrestles the World (2013), masterfully use color and perspective to help readers see the world from Little Thunder’s point of view. His admiration of his dad is manifest in depictions of Big Thunder as a gentle giant of a man. The otherwise-muted palette bursts with color as Thunder Boy Jr. proudly enumerates the unique qualities and experiences that could inspire his new name.

An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and son. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-01372-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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