Both a hilarious spoof of a noir novel and a clever comment on modern punctuation misuse

THE UPPER CASE

TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY

Lazar and MacDonald continue the relentless puns and fun with letters of 7 Ate 9 (2017), framed, like its predecessor, in the style of a mid-20th-century detective novel.

Private I, an actual letter I with little arms and legs, is dozing in his office when Question Mark and a rather shifty-looking Exclamation rush in to inform him that all the uppercase letters are missing, a surprising event in Capital City (geddit?!). No half-wit, I realizes that he is the “last capital letter standing” and resolves to take on the case. Chaos has erupted in the city, and random lowercase letters and punctuation run riot. I discovers that his favorite waitress, B has not shown up for work in the Café Uno—now known as “afé no” due to the dearth of uppercase letters. I takes the train out to Cursive Loop and finds the missing capitals all stuck up on a movie theater’s marquee, placed there by Exclamation, who, according to B, “promised to put us all in the movies.” Exclamation’s explanation is a subtle dig at overuse of this symbol: As he says, “Capital letters are always calling me…YES, HA, OMG!” Exclamation is arrested by the Grammar Police and put away for a “short sentence.” MacDonald’s illustrations, with classic typesets and hints of the Manhattan skyline, perfectly capture the retro mood and comedy of the concept.

Both a hilarious spoof of a noir novel and a clever comment on modern punctuation misuse . (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02765-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

DRAGONS VS. UNICORNS

From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!

ROT, THE BRAVEST IN THE WORLD!

A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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