A terrific Halloween title to share with those readers who prefer giggles to shivers.

NOT VERY SCARY

Monster Melly is invited to her cousin Malberta’s house “on the scariest night of all.” On her way, she notices she is being followed. Why? More importantly: by what?

Melly looks pleasant enough for a young monster, with her striped horns and fanged smile. What surprise could her cousin have in store for her? She has no time to think about that, as one “coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail” seems to be stalking her. Melly tells herself bravely it is “Not the least bit scary.” The following spreads reveal an increasing number of spooky characters following her. “[T]wo skittish skeletons” and “three wheezy witches” join the procession in turn, until “ten vexing vultures” round out the silly and not-so-scary group of creepy characters. But by the time Melly rings Malberta’s doorbell, her teeth are chattering with fear. Her three-eyed cousin opens the door to welcome her to a surprise party. But the true surprise is that all the other guests are right behind her! Brendler’s cumulative tale uses silly rhymes and humorous descriptions to make this counting adventure one that invites participation. Geisel winner Pizzoli (The Watermelon Seed, 2013) chooses a muted palette of oranges, browns, greens and purples to allow the whites—on Melly’s horns, cheerful ghosts and friendly skeletons—to glow.

A terrific Halloween title to share with those readers who prefer giggles to shivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-35547-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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