PLANTZILLA

“Little Shop of Horrors” for the teddy bear set? Not at all, despite similarities: in this warmhearted tale, a tropical plant with a taste for meat goes from scary houseguest to beloved family member. Nolen (Max and Jax in Second Grade, p. 342, etc.) sketches the plot in a series of letters from young Mortimer Henryson and his parents to Mortimer’s science teacher, Mr. Lester. Having sat next to “Plantcilia” all through third grade, Mortimer begs permission to bring it home for the summer, but after it proves to be both mobile and carnivorous (the family Chihuahua vanishes), his mother is beseeching Mr. Lester to take it back. With characteristic comic extravagance, Catrow (We the Kids, p. 564, etc.) fleshes out the details in a series of frenetic scenes increasingly crowded with long, snaky tendrils, ragged leaves, and bulbous green appendages with ominously toothy rims. As the summer goes on, however, Plantzilla proves less a menace than an eager asset, as capable of playing field hockey with Mortimer as jazz for his boogying parents—even spitting out the unharmed dog and, ultimately, writing a letter of its own: “PEEEple Gooood. I wil sta widdem fro ever!” Readers, plant-lovers or otherwise, will find this vegetative visitor taking root in their affections too. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-202412-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT

A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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