A top-notch early reader, with words and art in perfect step.

CHARLIE & MOUSE

From the Charlie & Mouse series

Two brothers create four fine and loopy entertainments to fill their day.

At daybreak, “Charlie woke up. There was a lump beside him.” (In bed, under the covers, as Hughes’ wry artwork relates.) “He poked the lump. The lump moaned.” It’s Mouse, who moans that he is sleeping. Charlie challenges that. “How can you be sleeping?...You are talking.” They get up and go poke the two lumps in their parents’ bed. “I am a mom,” the lump announces. “I can do what I want.” This same spirit informs the following three sagas in this early reader. One is a gathering parade to a neighborhood party, featuring a variety of genders, classes, and races. Mixed-race Charlie and Mouse have a white mom and an Asian dad; Mouse, although he takes the masculine pronoun, wears a pink tutu. Next Charlie and Mouse try to earn some money by selling rocks. Neither the elderly brown lady nor the interracial gay couple are in the market, but they do need rocks removed and will pay for the service. Mom, want it or not, gets a rock garden. Lastly, the boys create a new tradition: a bedtime banana, only to conspire after lights out that a bedtime Popsicle may be better. Snyder serves the stories with propulsive good cheer and a pleasing cadence, keeping the pages flipping, while Hughes’ illustrations have crazy-quilt complexity and visual texture.

A top-notch early reader, with words and art in perfect step. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3153-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Formulaic but not stale…even if it does mine previous topical material rather than expand it.

HOW DO DINOSAURS SHOW GOOD MANNERS?

From the How Do Dinosaurs…? series

A guide to better behavior—at home, on the playground, in class, and in the library.

Serving as a sort of overview for the series’ 12 previous exercises in behavior modeling, this latest outing opens with a set of badly behaving dinos, identified in an endpaper key and also inconspicuously in situ. Per series formula, these are paired to leading questions like “Does she spit out her broccoli onto the floor? / Does he shout ‘I hate meat loaf!’ while slamming the door?” (Choruses of “NO!” from young audiences are welcome.) Midway through, the tone changes (“No, dinosaurs don’t”), and good examples follow to the tune of positive declarative sentences: “They wipe up the tables and vacuum the floors. / They share all the books and they never slam doors,” etc. Teague’s customary, humongous prehistoric crew, all depicted in exact detail and with wildly flashy coloration, fill both their spreads and their human-scale scenes as their human parents—no same-sex couples but some are racially mixed, and in one the man’s the cook—join a similarly diverse set of sibs and other children in either disapprobation or approving smiles. All in all, it’s a well-tested mix of oblique and prescriptive approaches to proper behavior as well as a lighthearted way to play up the use of “please,” “thank you,” and even “I’ll help when you’re hurt.”

Formulaic but not stale…even if it does mine previous topical material rather than expand it. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-36334-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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