Inventive, musical rhyming pulls this effort, while the story and illustrations watch from the sidelines.

THE BOY WHO CRIED ALIEN

A prairie fire of wordplay engulfs Singer’s otherwise silly tale of visiting aliens.

Young Larry is a known liar, so no one believes him when he says an alien spaceship has landed in a nearby lake. “How corny, quaint, and uninspired. / I can’t be fooled by stuff that tired,” says someone who looks like he might be the mayor. And so, let the wordplay begin. Singer’s poetic architecture is highly variable—from long lines (which can be a bit of a slog) to short lines where words fly like popcorn (“ ‘Nonsense— / They’re jokesters, / hoaxsters. / Those fakes cannot / harm me…’ / ‘Holy pastrami— / call out the army!’ ”) to unsyncopated stutter steps. Even the aliens get in on the rhyming, their cockamamie verbiage—“Lel’w peek ruo eyes npeo / dna esu ruo tiws”—turning out in the end to be anagrammed English. The story, which involves Larry getting to know the aliens and learning that their planet admires the art of quality fibbing, plays second fiddle to the narrative pyrotechnics, and the words, in turn, tend to outshine Biggs’ artwork. While the characters have their measure of personality, mostly via gaping mouths, flapping tongues and beady eyes, the colors are fairly anemic, making the story even less substantial.

Inventive, musical rhyming pulls this effort, while the story and illustrations watch from the sidelines. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7868-3825-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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