CELEBRATION!

One African-American family's Fourth of July picnic takes a food-laden, loving approach that feels more manufactured than genuine. Maggie heralds the arrival of her relatives, all bearing food and games for the celebration. The book is dominated by descriptions of the dazzling array of foods, imposing an adult's-eye view on the gathering; adults sitting around and kids splashing in the pool are the extent of story. The characterizations are limited: One aunt, in her nurse's uniform and followed by her six children, is a ``broody old hen''; a couple (who have both finished law school) are defined by their insistence on bottled water, while their moody son is on a ``short leash'' for pilfering ``some candy at the drugstore''— the only character with definition, albeit a caricatured one. Col¢n's cross-hatchings create a pleasing portrait of a middle-class family's backyard party, but he neglects children's fondness for details that match the text: Granny drives her car, but gets out on the passenger side; a ``bowl'' of raw vegetables appears as a pot with a lid; a ``bachelor brother'' arrives with sparklers, but is shown holding VHS tapes; Pop is seen cooking hot dogs six pages before Mom says, ``Let's put the hot dogs on the fire and give [her brother] some food before he drinks any beer.'' Lacking the humorous tumult of Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammell's The Relatives Came (1985), the effect is fairly wholesome, but without benefit of strong emotion or a storyteller's voice, there are no fireworks. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7868-0189-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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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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