It’s not the worst way to introduce some new, unusual words, but this is unlikely to stimulate repeat readings.


From the Big Words Small Stories series

Sprinklers say the darnedest things.

Let’s backtrack. Sprinklers are blob-shaped critters of diverse size and color who are helpers of the Sprinkle Fairy. They appear in each of the six brief, unrelated stories about a boy named Cris and his cat, Crat, to introduce, with fanfare (“Big Word! Big Word!”), an unfamiliar word to emergent and early-middle-grade readers. There’s an arbitrary feel to the presentation, as though the tales were constructed around the words. The words are ones readers may not have realized they might want to know: “purloined,” “discombobulated,” “bamboozled,” “smithereens,” and “galoshes.” More commonplace words in the stories that young children may feel are equally important, including “wizard,” “fairy,” or “sprinkle,” aren’t singled out (although, granted, they aren’t as big). Each new word gets special treatment: It’s used several times in context, sometimes in different forms; a pronunciation guide is provided; and it’s defined at the story’s conclusion. The final tale reinforces all the new vocabulary. Perhaps due to this conceit, the stories are only faintly amusing, with endings that fall flat. The cartoon illustrations, however, reminiscent of those in Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie books, are whimsical, expressive, and appealing, and they feature ample white space and capitalized sound effects. Cris and the Sprinkle Fairy are both pale-skinned, but depicted groups are diverse.

It’s not the worst way to introduce some new, unusual words, but this is unlikely to stimulate repeat readings. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77138-788-0

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on...


Continuing from their acclaimed Those Shoes (2007), Boelts and Jones entwine conversations on money, motives, and morality.

This second collaboration between author and illustrator is set within an urban multicultural streetscape, where brown-skinned protagonist Ruben wishes for a bike like his friend Sergio’s. He wishes, but Ruben knows too well the pressure his family feels to prioritize the essentials. While Sergio buys a pack of football cards from Sonny’s Grocery, Ruben must buy the bread his mom wants. A familiar lady drops what Ruben believes to be a $1 bill, but picking it up, to his shock, he discovers $100! Is this Ruben’s chance to get himself the bike of his dreams? In a fateful twist, Ruben loses track of the C-note and is sent into a panic. After finally finding it nestled deep in a backpack pocket, he comes to a sense of moral clarity: “I remember how it was for me when that money that was hers—then mine—was gone.” When he returns the bill to her, the lady offers Ruben her blessing, leaving him with double-dipped emotions, “happy and mixed up, full and empty.” Readers will be pleased that there’s no reward for Ruben’s choice of integrity beyond the priceless love and warmth of a family’s care and pride.

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on children. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6649-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Sweet—and savory.


When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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