An inept commander and his clueless robot—there are lots of satisfying possibilities there, and Arnold taps into them.

FIX THIS MESS!

From the I Like To Read series

A “remote operating basic utility gizmo”—call him Robug for short—comes to clean Jake the dog’s mess, turning the house into hash in the process.

Arnold is always a bit of a wild man, and he brings that vibrancy here in both a narrative straining at its compression—“I will fix this mess!” is Robug’s refrain—and an artwork of inviting tactility. Readers would gladly dive into one of those plush chairs, even if they are covered with junk. Robug is a close kin to one of those swimming-pool cleaners that crawls contentedly about on the bottom. Robug, though, is a catastrophic dust storm, moving the mess from room to room to roof without ever getting anything put away. Finally, with a look in its eye like a teacher who isn’t going to take any more guff, Robug gets Jake cracking. This is a good, simple and funny tale, a pleasing eyeful working on a familiar motif: the sweep-it-under-the-rug style of cleaning, the cram-it-in-the-closet or shove-it-under-the-bed approach to household management, even the old shove-it-around-on-the-plate trick to pretend you at least tried the cold rutabaga salad. It hits the spot for beginning readers, and read-alongs are welcome, perhaps inevitable.

An inept commander and his clueless robot—there are lots of satisfying possibilities there, and Arnold taps into them. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2942-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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