A picture book for The Office–loving adults to read by themselves.

THE OFFICE

A DAY AT DUNDER MIFFLIN ELEMENTARY

An earnest but incompetent kid strives to bring order to his elementary school classroom in this picture-book companion to the TV show The Office.

When Michael Scott is appointed class Line Leader at Dunder Mifflin Elementary, he has his mom fashion him a sippy cup that reads “World’s Best Line Leader.” A kid named Dwight observes the chaos in the classroom—which is mystifyingly devoid of adults for the entire book—and tells Michael he might need some help. Other kids agree. Accepting Dwight as Assistant to the Line Leader, Michael proceeds to tell Angela to plan a party to be held in five minutes’ time and then struggles to fulfill his function by lining the kids up. Several pages of ineffectual lining-up later, Pam suggests Michael ask for help. A brainstorming session yields several ideas, including “beet harvesting,…pretzel toppings, cuteness, [and the] buddy system.” As Michael surveys his classmates happily eating cake, he concludes, “I lead a great class.” In Demmer’s cartoon illustrations, all the kids have a bobblehead look, with wide, staring eyes; most, including Michael, present White. Periodically the narrative stops to allow one or two students to break the fourth wall and comment on the action in some fashion. These interruptions are in keeping with the TV show’s formula but do not provide enough scaffolding to allow child readers to understand what’s going on; nonsensical dialogue (“A mistake plus Keleven equals seven!”) likewise excludes children from the joke. Adult readers with familiarity with the TV series may find it hilarious. Readers with no familiarity—that is, just about every single kid in this book’s putative audience—will not. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.4-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.5% of actual size.)

A picture book for The Office–loving adults to read by themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42838-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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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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