A HOUSE THAT ONCE WAS

A derelict house on top of a hill beckons two young children.

Two children, possibly siblings, approach the waiting house on a winding, weed-covered path, all the while wondering about its past and those who dwelled within its walls. An empty window invites them to climb in. The tale is not told by the children but by an unseen narrator who seems to speak directly to the readers watching these events from outside the pages. The explorers find all sorts of items that were left behind, while the narrator asks, “Who looked in this mirror?” “Who napped in this chair?” “Who was this someone…who’s gone but is still everywhere?” The language is direct, appealing equally to ear, eye, and mind. Intricate double-page spreads allow readers to follow the children as they explore and imagine and then return to their own cozy home. Smith’s illustrations neatly separate action from imagination. The children and present-day house are depicted with blotted-line India ink, appearing a bit faded and mysterious (the children’s skin takes on the color of the paper beneath). Their imagined house dwellers’ activities are painted in bright, light-filled oils with paper collage; the soft edges of these reveal narrow white backgrounds, effectively separating them from now. It is all perfectly seamless; words and art are interwoven in a dance that enchants.

Inventive and lovely. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-314-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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