The Ratso brothers’ third outing is good, anthropomorphic fun.

PROJECT FLUFFY

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 3

It’s Poetry Month—time for the First Annual Peter Rabbit Elementary School Poetry Contest!

First-, second-, and third-place winners each get a gift certificate to Clawmart. Rat brothers Louie and Ralphie Ratso intend to win so they can buy new skateboards. But then woodchuck Chuck Wood, the coolest kid in school, derails the brothers’ plans. Chuck has a crush on geek-girl gardener Fluffy, a spectacles-wearing rabbit pal of Louie’s, and he wants Louie’s help getting her attention. Soon Louie’s abandoning his brother and their poetry project to carry out Project Fluffy. Louie’s advice: give her flowers, write her a poem, give her candy. After all, girls love that stuff: “It’s, like, a fact,” Louie tells Chuck prior to each attempt. After numerous failures, Ralphie tells his brother: “Fluffy is a person and not a project.” Their dad, Big Lou, agrees: “Women aren’t projects or objects.” To get a girl’s attention you need to find out what she likes and take an interest in it. When Louie passes this advice to Chuck, will the love-struck groundhog give it a try? A wry, third-person, present-tense voice narrates this story about crushes, brothers, and togetherness. While the denouement is developmentally spot-on (Fluffy and Chuck decide to be friends), the heteronormative assumptions about romance feel a little stodgy. Large type, lots of comedic black-and-white illustrations, and reading-level-appropriate text suit the book to newly independent readers.

The Ratso brothers’ third outing is good, anthropomorphic fun. (Animal fantasy. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0005-8

Page Count: 97

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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