If the laughs come a tad unevenly, come they do: good, absurdist fun with sly, existential winks.

LOOK...LOOK AGAIN!

Renaissance guy O’Brien (who, in addition to penning New Yorker cartoons and illustrating prolifically for children, plays banjo and lifeguards in North Wildwood, N.J.) delivers wacky vignettes riffing on six professional tropes: farmer, chef, woodsman, knight, doorman and clown.

Throughout, double entendres and puns are made visual in titled cartoon strips composed of two to six panels each. In the group of stories about the profession of chef, a hatless pizza man rolls out and tosses dough that descends to settle on his head as a voluminous toque, and in “The Alphabet Soup,” the chef appeases an angry diner by fishing out three offending letters from his bowl: F, L and Y. A doorman’s thought bubble depicts a nearby water cooler; as he fetches a drink, the water cooler’s own thought bubble depicts the doorman. O’Brien finds particular fodder in a cartoonist’s stock trappings: A noisy snorer’s “ZZZZs” are shooed out a lobby window by the doorman, and one of the silliest bits has a dairy farmer, after looking fruitlessly for his cow’s udders, milking a word balloon that contains the cow’s “MOO!” Stippled watercolor in the muted tones of old comics underlie crosshatched ink drawings, and O’Brien’s own hand lettering appears throughout.

If the laughs come a tad unevenly, come they do: good, absurdist fun with sly, existential winks. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-894-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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