Go, Unlimited Squirrels! Go, readers!

I WANT TO SLEEP UNDER THE STARS!

From the Unlimited Squirrels series

A star-themed bedtime story—and so much more!

The Unlimited Squirrels’ third series entry offers a “BIG Story!” along with a smorgasbord of squirrelly miscellany (jokes, a quiz, and facts). In the “BIG Story,” Zoom Squirrel dreams of sleeping under the stars for the first time. So, Zip Squirrel summons five other pals to help make it happen. At first the squirrels are uncertain how to help, but one suggests they all offer encouragement since Zoom Squirrel is trying something new (“Being encouraged gives me courage!”). The friends form a squirrel pyramid and chant “GO, ZOOMY!” and “YOU CAN DO IT!” But their encouragement doesn’t quite land. Zoom Squirrel wants “PEACE and QUIET,” not encouragement. The friends assume they’re simply using the wrong cheer so they split up into teams to shout “PEACE!” and whisper “Quiet!” By the time Zoom Squirrel corrects them again, it’s morning and the stars are gone! Having established the series formula, Willems is now free to explore it, and the installments get better and better. The smart design and layout uses color-coding and “emote-acorns” to help emerging readers decipher not only words and textual features, but feelings. The fact-based sections playfully combine photographs with Willems’ cartoon illustrations. In lieu of a bibliography to support the informational content, Willems thanks experts—a nod at citation but one that, unfortunately, doesn’t help readers who want to investigate further. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-13-inch double-page spreads viewed at 76% of actual size.)

Go, Unlimited Squirrels! Go, readers! (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-05335-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities.

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THE ROCK FROM THE SKY

If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one.

In the first of five chapters, Klassen places his now-familiar turtle and armadillo (wearing bowler hats) on a minimalist gray/green landscape with one flower and—on the facing page—one plant. Personalities are revealed through occasional, slow movement across the gutter together with color-coded dialogue that feels as if it is being invented in the moment, sans script. Turtle is inflexible, not wanting to relocate, even when Armadillo moves farther away after a bad feeling about the space. It is only when Snake (sporting a beret) appears near the mammal that Turtle joins them—just in time: A huge asteroid falls on the vacated spot. Readers have watched it coming, suspense effectively building as they turn the pages. In subsequent episodes, Armadillo attempts to be helpful; miscommunication abounds; and Turtle is stubborn, proud, and jealous of the unspeaking snake, now near the rock: “I see how it is. Just enough room for two.” Turtle playing the martyr: “Maybe I will never come back.” As daylight turns into a striking, rose-tinged sunset and then a starlit evening, a life-zapping extraterrestrial (created previously in Armadillo’s futuristic forest fantasy) stalks Turtle. At the last minute, a second asteroid annihilates the creature. Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder.

Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1562-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Thank you, Gerald and Piggie. We’ll miss you

THE THANK YOU BOOK

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Piggie is “one lucky pig,” and she’s determined to make sure she thanks “everyone who is important to” her in this, the final Elephant & Piggie book.

Gerald is sure his friend will forget someone—“someone important”—but Piggie assures him, “It will be a THANK-O-RAMA!” Piggie proceeds to thank the Squirrels for their great ideas, Snake for playing ball, and the Pigeon “for never giving up.” Piggie thanks and thanks: “I am a thanking machine!” She thanks character after character, even the Flies (“Any time, dude!”), as Gerald continues to interject that she’ll forget “someone VERY important.” Finally Piggie runs out of thanks, and by this time Gerald is steamed. “I goofed,” Piggie says in itty-bitty type, before lavishing thanks on Gerald. But that’s not whom Piggie forgot to thank! A classic Willems tantrum later, Gerald reveals the “someone important”: “Our reader.” Of course. “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” says Gerald, earnestly looking out from the page, and Piggie chimes in, “You are the best!” As Elephant & Piggie books go, this isn’t one of the strongest, but it is a validating valediction to fans of the two characters, who have won Willems two Geisel Medals and five Honors. Yes, Gerald and Piggie have ushered countless readers into literacy, but as they rightly note, reading is a collaborative act.

Thank you, Gerald and Piggie. We’ll miss you . (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7828-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

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