Frankencrayon by Michael Hall (InfoSoup)
This picture book has been cancelled. The crayons in the story are saddened that the picture book won’t be happening. After all, they have costumes and were going to tell an amazing story. But now that someone is actually reading the cancelled story, they may as well tell the reader exactly why the picture book has ended. It is all because of the horrible scribble that suddenly interrupted the story. They tried to clean the page, but the scribble just got larger and larger. It was out of control and everyone was so disturbed by it that they forgot to tell Frankencrayon that something was wrong. So when the crayons playing him entered on Page 22, they ran right into the scribble. It would take some quick thinking and fast action to save the story.
Hall has such a playful approach to picture books that one never quite knows what sort of story they are heading into. This book is great fun from the set up of the “cancellation” to the crayons in costumes. It is clever and humorous with exactly the sort of humor that preschoolers adore. Children will not be scared by anything here thanks to the use of crayons and the horror being a scribble on the page. This one reads aloud beautifully, filled with voices of the pencil, the crayons, and even one evil scribbler.
The cut paper collage pops on each page, the crayons bright with their colors and delightful in their different sizes after clearly having been merrily colored with for some time. The pointy pencil too somehow has its own personality. The solution that Frankencrayon comes up with is exactly what children would think of and adds to the visual appeal of the book.
This funny picture book is perfect to share aloud with a group of preschoolers who may love to do their own transformations of scribbles into something more friendly. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier (InfoSoup)
Friday has long known the power of being invisible to everyone else. Her parents rarely pay any attention to her and she got herself moved from kindergarten to first grade without anyone noticing. When she solves a bank robbery, the award money lets her pay tuition to Highcrest Academy, a very exclusive private school. Friday hopes to continue to be invisible, but her brown sweaters and jeans don’t serve as camouflage among the trendy and expensive clothes. Anyway, Friday soon discovers that what Highcrest Academy needs is a detective since there is crime everywhere! As Friday steps into that role, she tries to solve a series of cases from missing homework to who exactly is the yeti in the swamp. This funny and clever book is the first in a new series that is sure to delight.
Friday is a great female protagonist. She is highly intelligent and never apologizes for it. She is also socially awkward but manages to find a great friend at school, another girl who is her perfect foil, a daydreamer who can read emotions well. Friday has no interest in being popular, another breath of fresh air. The unlikely pair make a great team in solving mysteries and are joined by others including a doltish brother who does what he is told very well and a principal who also needs Friday’s help.
The entire book is smart and humorous. Friday solves crimes in ways that make sense and the crimes themselves are small enough to fit into a middle school campus but large enough to be fascinating. While there is some bullying, many of the boarding school tropes of mean girls are minimized in favor of the mysteries themselves. The closed-in setting of the boarding school is used to great effect as the suspects must often be right in the vicinity.
A dazzling new series, this book has tons of appeal for mystery fans and features a unique new protagonist to love. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Edelweiss.