Teachers will have field day with this wordplay; this caper is clever, capricious, and cunning.


Help! All of the words in Noah Webster’s dictionary are bored, so they make a break for it and the word parade begins.

Welcome to Hollyword, land of anthropomorphic words. The self-centered I is the grand marshal, together with the 34-letter “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (hyphenated three times to fit on the page). “The action verbs LOVE to show off” (there are “bounce,” “spin,” “ricochet,” and “jump,” among others). The “no-action contractions NEED SOME HELP,” as they’re a pretty defeatist bunch: “he couldn’t,” “she won’t,” “we didn’t.” Homophones tango by twos and threes, and “archaic words strut their SHAKESPEARE” with yummy entries such as “Garboil,” “Pismire,” “Sackbut,” and “Yerk.” (A closing glossary helps with these and other unfamiliar words.) Anagrams, antonyms, palindromes, rhyming words, conjunctions, and interjections also each have a double-page spread, the lively letters acting out the definitions. The palette of the digital illustrations uses orange, turquoise, and olive green to highlight the actions. Eye dots, smile lines, and wiggly arms and legs animate the letters. Exuberant and energetic design enlivens the letters as they bounce and frolic across the pages, minimalist compositions adding occasional details to amp up the fun: a crocodile-green “Nile” floats down a river; the A in “READ” holds open a book for its neighboring letters to enjoy.

Teachers will have field day with this wordplay; this caper is clever, capricious, and cunning. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8004-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!


A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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