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Archives for September 2011

Potty time

Oceanhouse Media’s Once upon a Potty app is true to the original. The focus is on the text and illustrations; digital enhancements are used sparingly and effectively. There are some polite potty sound effects and humor, and though I’m sure the urge was strong (get it?!) to make more of a splash (it’s too easy!), the producers wisely kept the intended audience in mind. The narrative’s reassuring tone, nonthreatening pictures, and unobtrusive music help distractible toddlers focus on the important information.

Review of The Name of the Star

Upon arriving in London from Louisiana for the school year, high-school senior Rory is told that someone “pulled a Jack the Ripper” the night before. She assumes the phrase is some quaint British colloquialism she has yet to learn, not an actual reference to a gruesome murder committed on the same date—August 31—and in the same location.

There’s no place like Oz

With its ruby-slipper-red glitter cover, The Wizard of Oz: A Scanimation Book by Rufus Butler Seder (Workman, September) caught my eye. The book attempts to bring to life ten scenes from the 1939 movie.  Scanimation might be best described as a modern-day flip book. Pictures are covered by finely striped plastic; when you tilt the […]

Where’s Walrus?

What’s not to love about Where’s Walrus?, Stephen Savage’s wordless hide and seek romp about an escaped walrus hiding in plain sight and the zookeeper who can’t keep up. The art may have been created on a computer in Adobe Illustrator, but the book’s style owes more to old masters like Leonard Weisgard than to […]

Starred reviews, November/December Horn Book Magazine

The following books will receive starred reviews in the November/December issue of The Horn Book Magazine:   The Money We’ll Save; by Brock Cole (Ferguson/Farrar) Subway Story; by Julia Sarcone-Roach (Knopf) Benjamin Bear in “Fuzzy Thinking”; by Philippe Coudray; trans. from the French by Leigh Stein; illus. by the author (Toon/Candlewick) No Ordinary Day; by […]

Ready Player One

Has anyone else read this yet? By Ernest Cline, Ready Player One  is set in the near  future (2044) when the world has gone mostly to shit and people spend as much time as they can in The Oasis, an enormous  virtual reality universe. The enormously wealthy creator of Oasis–the most valuable property on the […]

Bone Dog

Knowing the mortality rate of dogs in books, it’s no surprise that turning the translucent cover of the title page reveals a “bone dog.” Using very thick black outlined panels and water colored relief prints, Rohmann tells a story of grief and canine loyalty on one Halloween night. The close connection between Gus and Ella is […]

Guiding the young

“This is a very good start, really. Now, you might want to move that line just a tad to the left, and think a bit about your colors.”


Jane Goodall demands respect. Even as a young woman on the American lecture circuit, there was a sense of quiet dignity about her — until she broke into a loud demonstration of the “pant-hoot.”

At first glance, Patrick McDonnell has made some surprising choices in this picture book biography: the “cheeky” title (Roger’s word), the near-total concentration on Goodall’s childhood, the sudden switch from illustration to a photograph of grown-up Jane on the last spread of the narrative.

Review of Grin and Bear It

“Bear had a dream. His dream was to make his friends laugh.” But poor Bear has stage fright, and his debut appearance on the Woodland Stage flops. Despondent, Bear goes to the local watering hole, orders a root beer, and says to himself: “What’s the use? I’ll never tell another joke again.” But when hummingbird Emmy, a gifted performer but lousy writer, finds Bear’s crumpled-up list of jokes, she perceives its comedic genius and regales the crowd with an impromptu performance. Bear’s friends, recognizing his work, introduce the two and thus create a symbiotic partnership between two comedians with different skills.