Don’t be a stranger to this one.

STRANGE PLANET

THE SNEAKING, HIDING, VIBRATING CREATURE

Pyle brings his Strange Planet cartoons to a child audience with a little help from a “strange furry creature.”

Introduced first on Instagram, then in book-length collections for an adult audience, Lifegiver and Offspring are two blue extraterrestrials intent on understanding Earth. They build this understanding through observations articulated through hyperliteral phrases that are sure to provoke readers’ laughter. After arising from a “rest slab” (bed), Offspring joins Lifegiver for a breakfast of “criss-cross floppers” and “sweet sauce” (waffles and syrup) before they begin recording their observations of a strange creature in their midst. Readers will recognize this creature as a white cat and will get a kick out of how the ETs describe and attempt to reenact its behaviors as it hides, sneaks, climbs, knocks things over, “observe[s] a flying creature” (a bird), plops down on their “observations document” (notebook), “vibrates when happy” (purrs), and rests. The uncluttered cartoon style allows the wry text to command attention, and while having a good laugh may be the main takeaway here, kids might just hone observational skills, too, and be inspired to pick up their own “ink cylinder[s]” (pens) to draw or write down their thoughts about the world around them. Kids who read this independently may well find extra fun in surprising their adults with new vocabulary; families who read it together may be inspired to make up their own. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Don’t be a stranger to this one. (Picture book. 5-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304974-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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