Too funny for its own good.


A book tells the story of how it was made.

It all starts, of course, with an idea, which strikes Barnett while arm-wrestling a tiger. An initial “bunch of words on paper” goes through draft after draft, then finally the 21st version is sent to Barnett’s editor (“like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper”; she’s white, as are Barnett and Rex). The negotiation between author and editor covers several pages (and “most of the United States,” as dashed lines traverse the country, representing the back and forth). Finally, illustrator Rex receives Barnett’s words, and here hysterical vignettes depict Rex sleeping and goofing off as the text says, “he must have been working very hard.” At this point, the book starts to go off the rails, informing readers without explanation that even though it would be faster to print it in the United States, the book goes to China for printing. Then it really gets silly. First there’s a pile of books so large it’s visible from space (an ironic comment on small print runs that will mystify young readers), and then several pages of sheer looniness involving pirates and an eagle, among others, pad the story before readers finally finish it—which completes its creation. Rex’s mixed-media illustrations keep up with the text and pack in plenty of chuckles, but sadly, the verbal embroidery obscures a topic kids might be genuinely interested in.

Too funny for its own good. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5220-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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...


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.


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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