An adorable story that teaches readers that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

STELLA ENDICOTT AND THE ANYTHING-IS-POSSIBLE POEM

From the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series , Vol. 5

On the first day of second grade, Stella Endicott meets her new teacher, Ms. Tamar Calliope Liliana, whom she wants very much to impress—and so does the annoying boy at the desk next to hers.

During the second week of school, Stella’s class is assigned to write a poem that includes a metaphor. After school, Stella visits her friend Mercy Watson the pig. She cuddles up close to Mercy on the couch and begins to write. Stella eagerly writes about Mercy, the sound of the neighbor’s accordion, and leaves that fall balletically from the tree outside. She is so excited about her poem that when know-it-all Horace Broom asks if he can read it, Stella doesn’t hesitate to share. Horace immediately begins to pick it apart, scornfully informing her, “Pigs don’t sit on couches, they live on farms.” Angry, Stella loudly defends her poem. The two argue, and Ms. Liliana sends them to see Mr. Tinwiddie, the principal. It is this sentence that forces Stella to act using “courage” and “curiosity,” resources she draws on to encourage Horace, who is so afraid by the expected dressing-down that he runs out of the office and into more trouble than either of them thought possible. The academic setting, imaginative Stella, and brown-noser Horace combine for an ideal opportunity for DiCamillo to exercise her characteristic wordplay. Stella is biracial (black/white), Ms. Liliana appears black, and Horace presents white.

An adorable story that teaches readers that things—and people—are not always what they seem. (Fiction. 6-9 )

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0180-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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