A folktale retelling that’s well-suited to a new generation of young readers.

A Case of Sense

What is the cost of a smell? Debut author Daemicke and veteran artist Bersani (Ocean Counting, 2016, etc.) answer this question by bringing a traditional tale into a present-day setting.

In a modern-looking Chinatown, young Ming is playing with an old-fashioned racing wheel when he smells something delicious. Fantastic aromas are coming from the house of notable curmudgeon Fu Wang, and Ming is suspicious—as well he ought to be. In turns out that Fu Wang’s chefs have created eight delicious dishes, and the chefs announce them to the neighborhood. Later in the day, Fu Wang announces that, as payment for the wonderful smells, he will collect 40 cents from each local family. It doesn’t seem like a large sum, but for the families that live near Fu Wang, it’s enough for them to protest his ridiculous demand and refuse to give him money. Fu Wang presses the issue and takes his neighbors to court. Ming sits in the audience and listens as the wise judge hears out the case. “The smells from Fu Wang’s food were not something we asked for. Why should we pay for them?” one of the neighbors protests. But when the judge asks each neighbor to produce 40 cents each, the neighbors fear they’ve lost the case. The joke, however, is on Fu Wang; the judge has each neighbor jingle their coins to pay for the smell of food with the sound of money. The folktale on which this story is based has versions in Japan, China, Korea, Turkey, and elsewhere, but young American readers will likely see it here for the first time. They’ll laugh at the justice served to Fu Wang and appreciate the wisdom of the judge. Bersani’s illustrations feature a wonderfully diverse cast of men and women of primarily Asian descent, although Fu Wang looks a bit like a stereotypical villain. The text on each page can be lengthy but the vocabulary is appropriate for a mid-elementary-school audience, who will get the most out of the tale; classroom-activity pages about the five senses, as well as a science experiment about diffusion, follow the text. The images also help move the story along at a steady pace.

A folktale retelling that’s well-suited to a new generation of young readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62855-852-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A comical, fresh look at crayons and color

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THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT

Duncan wants to draw, but instead of crayons, he finds a stack of letters listing the crayons’ demands in this humorous tale.

Red is overworked, laboring even on holidays. Gray is exhausted from coloring expansive spaces (elephants, rhinos and whales). Black wants to be considered a color-in color, and Peach? He’s naked without his wrapper! This anthropomorphized lot amicably requests workplace changes in hand-lettered writing, explaining their work stoppage to a surprised Duncan. Some are tired, others underutilized, while a few want official titles. With a little creativity and a lot of color, Duncan saves the day. Jeffers delivers energetic and playful illustrations, done in pencil, paint and crayon. The drawings are loose and lively, and with few lines, he makes his characters effectively emote. Clever spreads, such as Duncan’s “white cat in the snow” perfectly capture the crayons’ conundrum, and photographic representations of both the letters and coloring pages offer another layer of texture, lending to the tale’s overall believability.

A comical, fresh look at crayons and color . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-25537-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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