While lively in both text and illustration, this book’s unfortunate and unexamined acceptance of animal circus acts makes it...

EMMA'S CIRCUS

A young white girl who’s unable to go to the circus finds that the circus comes to her.

This story arrives just as the use of wild animals for circus entertainment has come under such scrutiny it’s closed the Greatest Show on Earth. It’s a pity, then, that this lively story with its fresh watercolor illustrations demonstrating expert use of color washes uses circus lions, camels, elephants, monkeys, seals, and a unicycle-riding bear to inhabit the plot’s central action. Emma, the young narrator, wishes to go see the circus, but her white father tells her there is too much farm work to do. The next day, though, Emma is visited by a circus bear riding a unicycle, and the two play in the barn until suppertime. The bear returns the next day with two circus seals playing horns, and they all play together in the barn. Emma’s family (all white), busy with chores (Emma seems to have none), doesn’t notice as each day more and more of the circus shows up to play in the barn. Discovered at last by the family, Emma’s circus gives a performance in the barn especially for them. Although the conversational text is peppered with the girl’s protestations that she’s not lying, allowing ample opportunity for the illustrations to turn this into an extended fantasy, they play it straight.

While lively in both text and illustration, this book’s unfortunate and unexamined acceptance of animal circus acts makes it obsolete. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-39907-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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