THE SKULL ALPHABET BOOK

Pallotta continues his series of scientifically oriented alphabets (The Jet Alphabet Book, 1999, etc.), with this skillfully illustrated volume focused on mammal skulls as the underlying structure. Each page shows one animal skull, with a paragraph of often humorous, always interesting text that offers information about skull anatomy, similarities and differences between mammals, and scientific “detective work.” The mammal names are left for the reader to guess from clues in the text and illustrations, with some animals quite easy to guess, and others requiring much more effort from the organ encased in the human skull. Masiello’s (The Flag We Love, 2000, etc.) striking paintings show each skull in a related environment (a fox skull in a henhouse, for example), with appropriate flora and fauna clues (ants crawling on an anteater skull, a bamboo stalk in the jaw of the panda bear’s skull). On most pages there is another challenge for junior science detectives: skillfully hidden within the illustrations are one or more heads of the presidents (famous human skulls of a sort). Both the presidential names and the mammal names are included on an answer page, but it’s left up to each reader’s brainpower to match the names with the appropriate illustrations. This answer page, which also includes some nonmammal skulls, is oddly placed near the end of the alphabet rather than at the end of the volume. Touches of offbeat humor are found throughout, showing that for those who use their heads, science can be both educational and fun. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-9)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-88106-914-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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THE BOY WHO LOVED WORDS

A charmingly prolix tall tale of a boy so word-obsessed that he collects new words on slips of paper. They bulge from his pockets, float around his head and fill his world. Classmates nickname Selig “Wordsworth” and give him a word for his collection: “oddball.” The discovery that his purpose in life is to share his carefully chosen words with others leads to success and love. And, “if, one day, . . . the perfect word just seems to come to you . . . you’ll know that Selig is near.” Schotter’s words are enlivened by Potter’s distinctively naïve figures, all placed in settings in which words and labels are scattered about in a way that invites close inspection and promotes purposeful inquiry. It all adds up to an *exultant encounter, chockablock with tintinnabulating gusto (*see tantalizing glossary appended). A gift to precocious children and teachers as well. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83601-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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