THE BOY WHO OWNED THE SCHOOL

A COMEDY OF LOVE

A total surprise from the award-winning author of, most recently, The Winter Room (1989, Newbery Honor): a comic, accessible novel about a classic 15-year-old klutz. Slight, quiet, and much brighter than his dismal grades imply, Jacob has focused his talents on the art of being invisible and thus avoiding the jocks, of whom he is the quintessential victim. Despite his efforts, though, he's noticed by a teacher who drafts him to run the fog machine for a production of The Wizard of Oz. Hopelessly enamored of Maria, the popular, genuinely nice girl who plays the witch, Jacob panics at the chance of getting to know her, manages (like the Phantom of the Opera) to keep out of sight as usual, fouls up completely (and hilariously) in his not-so-simple theatrical task—and discovers, finally, that Maria likes him, too. Since this is a Paulsen book, there's another level here. Jacob is so self-involved that he's oblivious to the subtleties of others' motives and assumes that he's the lowest in every pecking order—which is only partly true, and true in that part because he himself perpetuates it. The book is deftly constructed, the brief chapters like the blush strokes of a master painter, with remarkably apt sketches of minor characters (Uncle Frank, "tough as nails," looks "like a spark plug"). A perceptive portrait of a kid on the verge of getting out of his self-set trap of imagining any change as a threat—even change for the better: a memorably funny yet touching farce.

Pub Date: March 1, 1990

ISBN: 0440405246

Page Count: -

Publisher: Orchard/Watts

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Wonderful, indeed

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU WILL BE

A GROWING-UP POEM

A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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