ORSON BLASTS OFF!

A much-praised illustrator files a Chris Van Allsburg–style flight plan for his first solo outing. After his computer croaks and he’s finished jumping up and down, young Orson exchanges disgust for delight when his suddenly animate jack-in-the-box suggests a venture outside. “Outside? I don’t do outside,” is Orson’s first response—but soon he’s off on an eager trek to the North Pole, followed by a stormy sea voyage aboard an origami boat, and a quick tour of the universe in a cardboard rocket. The pictures take a front seat here, their combed surfaces and multiple color layers adding both a sense of motion and a dreamlike quality, while the brief all-dialogue text—in which Orson’s springy sidekick sounds remarkably like C-3PO: “Ten . . . this is madness . . . seven, six, five . . . madness, I say’—occasionally gives way to a wordless page or spread. Colón also tucks in some playful images, such as an actual pole at the North Pole, and a Big Dipper floating among the stars—all of which he feels compelled to explain at the end. Happily, this pedantic afterthought doesn’t sour the sweep and exuberance of Orson’s odyssey. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-84278-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Anne Schwartz/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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HOW I BECAME A PIRATE

Thanks to parrot-toting Braidbeard and his gloriously disreputable crew, a lad discovers the ups and downs of a pirate’s life in this rousing mini-epic. His mom and dad busy on another part of the beach, young Jeremy happily joins a band of hook-handed, eye-patched, snaggle-toothed pirates aboard their ship, learning pirate table manners (none), enjoying a game of nautical soccer until a shark eats the ball, then happily retiring without having to brush teeth, or even don pajamas. But then Jeremy learns that pirates don’t get tucked in, or get bedtime stories, and as for good night kisses—Avast! Worse yet, no one offers comfort when a storm hits. So, giving over the pirate’s life, Jeremy shows the crew where to bury its treasure (his backyard), and bids them goodbye. Shannon outfits Braidbeard’s leering, pop-eyed lot in ragged but colorful pirate dress, and gives his young ruffian-in-training a belt and bandanna to match. This isn’t likely to turn pirate wannabees into landlubbers, but it will inspire a chorus of yo-ho-hos. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-201848-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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