A dustball of fun for fairly fluent readers.

THE TRAVELING DUSTBALL

Chores become fun via an enormous flying dustball and word nerdery.

Bespectacled Davey is sweeping under the couch. When he enlists his dog’s grudging help to dispose of a sizable dustball, a gust of wind takes the two up, up, and away on a grand adventure to Italy, Hawaii, China, and Switzerland. Along with sending the pair to a new location, each chapter also introduces a “big word,” such as “irksome,” “brouhaha,” “lollygagging,” “collywobbles,” and “phenomenon.” As in series opener The Missing Donut (2018), colorful beings called Sprinklers pop in to alert the reader before any “big word” is introduced (“Big word coming. BIG!”). Their leader, the Sprinkle Fairy, adds idiom-filled commentary. The repetitive formula, which smartly deviates in the final chapter to combine all the “big words” into a humorous skit, will indeed introduce readers who have some confidence already to new words. The quirky cartoon illustrations have ample white space, but readers unfamiliar with comics conventions may find the layout hard to follow without panels and speech bubbles. Additionally, the globe-trotting sequences rely on visual stereotypes to convey the locations (for example, the Swiss characters wear lederhosen and dirndls, and the Italians carry plates of spaghetti and meatballs; the depiction of an elderly Chinese man avoids facial stereotypes, however). Davey has brown skin and black hair; the Sprinkle Fairy presents white.

A dustball of fun for fairly fluent readers. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77138-789-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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...

A BIKE LIKE SERGIO'S

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.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

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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