Cute concept; uneven execution.

CATCH THAT COOKIE!

Some peripatetic gingerbread men make a believer of a skeptical grade schooler.

Mrs. Gray’s class has been listening to variations on “The Gingerbread Man” all week in preparation for a cooking activity. Marshall knows it’s all hooey—cookies can’t run. The kids mix, cut and decorate before Mrs. Gray “locks” the gingerbread men in the oven…but when the oven is opened, the cookies have vanished. A series of rhymed clues takes the kids around the school in pursuit. Though initially Marshall suspects that Mrs. Gray has cooked up a literacy exercise to get between the kids and their cookies, a stray raisin makes him wonder—and then he notices hundreds of gingerbread footprints on the floor of the gym. Those “G-men” must be napping in the doll corner after all that running! Durand has created an attractive protagonist in Marshall; his skepticism is exactly age-appropriate, as is his pride in the way he “rocks” the dough. Small’s loose, line-and-watercolor cartoons feature a freckled, redheaded Caucasian boy with expressive eyebrows. (Mrs. Gray is also white, but her classroom is multiethnic.) There’s something a little half-baked about the story, though; although the buildup to the discovery of the cookies is effective, the denouement sags: Just what is going to happen to all these apparently sentient cookies? A closing vignette showing Marshall about to bite his cookie’s head off is downright disquieting.

Cute concept; uneven execution. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-525-42835-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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Very young gardeners will need more information, but for certain picky eaters, the suggested strategy just might work.

SYLVIA'S SPINACH

A young spinach hater becomes a spinach lover after she has to grow her own in a class garden.

Unable to trade away the seed packet she gets from her teacher for tomatoes, cukes or anything else more palatable, Sylvia reluctantly plants and nurtures a pot of the despised veggie then transplants it outside in early spring. By the end of school, only the plot’s lettuce, radishes and spinach are actually ready to eat (talk about a badly designed class project!)—and Sylvia, once she nerves herself to take a nibble, discovers that the stuff is “not bad.” She brings home an armful and enjoys it from then on in every dish: “And that was the summer Sylvia Spivens said yes to spinach.” Raff uses unlined brushwork to give her simple cartoon illustrations a pleasantly freehand, airy look, and though Pryor skips over the (literally, for spinach) gritty details in both the story and an afterword, she does cover gardening basics in a simple and encouraging way.

Very young gardeners will need more information, but for certain picky eaters, the suggested strategy just might work. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9836615-1-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Readers to Eaters

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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