A FINE, FINE SCHOOL

School can be peachy, but that doesn’t mean time away from school isn’t just as valuable, which is the lesson Principal Keene has to learn in this charming story of a school administrator utterly rapt in his job. Mr. Keene just can’t get enough of his fine school with all that fine learning being taught by the fine teachers to the fine students. So he decides to have school on Saturday, then Sunday, then on holidays, then the whole year through: “He was so proud of the students and the teachers, of all the learning they were doing every day.” Literally. But the students and teachers aren’t so sanguine about the situation, though no one wanted to prick Mr. Keene’s balloon. Until Tillie finally tells him that some others are not learning because of all the school, like her dog, who hasn’t learned how to sit, or her little brother, who hasn’t learned how to swing or skip, because she’s never home to teach them. Indeed, she hasn’t learned to climb a tree for all the classroom time she’s been putting in. Mr. Keene sees the light, beveling his enthusiasm and putting his good intentions into perspective. Creech’s text capably moves the story forward, but it has all the humor of a stoat and the repetitions are overmuch. Yet Bliss (Girl of the Shining Mountain, 1999, etc.) comes through not just to save the day, but to make the story memorable, with appealing characters and numerous silly sight gags and verbal asides, like the post-it notes that read “Massive Quiz Saturday” and “Power Nap 2 pm,” the photo in the kid’s locker from his parents signed “We Miss You Son!” and the TV screen that reads “The Best Cartoons in the World Start in 5 Minutes!!” just as Tillie is shuffling out the door to school on Christmas. Just fine. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-027736-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached.

EXTRA YARN

A little girl in a town of white snow and soot-blackened chimneys opens a small box and discovers a never-ending gift of colorful yarn.

Annabelle knits herself a sweater, and with the leftover yarn, she knits one for her dog, and with the yarn left over from that, she knits one for a neighbor and for her classmates and for her teacher and for her family and for the birdhouse and for the buildings in town. All and everything are warm, cozy and colorful until a clotheshorse of an archduke arrives. Annabelle refuses his monetary offers, whereupon the box is stolen. The greedy archduke gets his just deserts when he opens the box to find it empty. It wends its way back to Annabelle, who ends up happily sitting in a knit-covered tree. Klassen, who worked on the film Coraline, uses inks, gouache and colorized scans of a sweater to create a stylized, linear design of dark geometric shapes against a white background. The stitches of the sweaters add a subdued rainbow. Barnett entertained middle-grade readers with his Brixton Brothers detective series. Here, he maintains a folkloric narrative that results in a traditional story arc complete with repetition, drama and a satisfying conclusion.

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-195338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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