With very careful repeat reads, this challenging tale may pay off, especially if readers choose to put on a play of their...

FRANKENCRAYON

Personified crayons and a pencil, thespians all, re-enact the cancellation of their book, while Hall fills his story within a story with intrigue, theater, and a whole lot of silly.

An “official notice” greets readers, urging them to abandon this book, while a cancellation stamp mars the title page. When the cast-member crayons realize a reader is turning the page, the pencil breaks the fourth wall and starts to recount what went wrong with their production of Frankencrayon. It began at rehearsal, with a mysterious scribble, which the crayons try to erase but only make bigger. When the play is canceled, three crayons help the scribble to independence by drawing feet and a face. Reflecting on these events, the crayons and pencil realize lessons learned (“Even a messy scribble can be a lovely thing”), and all ends well...until: “Screeeeeetch!” The villain behind the scribble is revealed! Hall, as usual, plays with both narrative and its visual representation. The illustrations are compelling, with cut-paper crayons and a variety of textures and typefaces. However, the stretch to innovate and interact leads to a story composed of many varied parts, which often complicate rather than clarify. And while different types help identify which character is speaking (and when), the textual busyness on top of this visually reductive story can be confusing.

With very careful repeat reads, this challenging tale may pay off, especially if readers choose to put on a play of their own. (dramatis personae) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-225211-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

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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Have the contact info for the local dojo handy—readers will want to try out these martial-arts styles for themselves.

THE THREE NINJA PIGS

"Dedication and practice pay off," is the message these three pigs painlessly deliver.

“Once upon a dangerous time,” a wolf plagued a town with his huffing and puffing, so three pigs—two hogs and a sow—attend Ninja School to learn how to face him. Each studies a different martial art, but the two brothers quickly lose interest; the third pig alone earns all her belts. So when the wolf comes calling, it’s no surprise when the brothers’ skills are not equal to the task. “The chase carried on to their sister’s. / Pig Three was outside in her gi. / ‘I’m a certified weapon, / so watch where you’re steppin’. / You don’t want to start up with me!’ ” A demonstration of her prowess is enough to send the wolf packing and the brothers back to their training. Schwartz’s sophomore outing is a standout among fractured fairy tales, masterfully combining rollicking limerick verse with a solid story, neither a slave to the other. The one quibble is the “Ninja” of the title—these pigs study the martial arts of aikido, jujitsu and karate. Santat’s illustrations are done with Sumi brush on rice paper and finished in Photoshop. The colors, patterns and themes nicely incorporate those of Japanese art, and the setting, with its background mountains, cherry blossoms and traditional rooftops, is firmly Japanese.

Have the contact info for the local dojo handy—readers will want to try out these martial-arts styles for themselves. (glossary) (Fractured fairy tale. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25514-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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