Read unhurried, in a lap, again and again.

BOOT & SHOE

This gem about canine siblings goes from peaceful routine to funny mayhem to erroneous bereavement—and relief.

Littermates Boot and Shoe are small, white dogs with black tails and fur flopping over their eyes. Only their leg coloring differs, giving rise to their names. Boot spends daytime on the back porch, Shoe the front, a habit “perfect for both of them”; they share supper bowl, dog bed and a specific tree for peeing on. Gouache and black pencil create warm vignettes and sturdy spreads with a vibe both lively and mellow. Creamy, speckled paper matches organic, hand-lettered text. One day, a chattering squirrel gets “all up in [their] business,” and the dogs go berserk. To symbolize two dogs and one squirrel in a mad dash, upward of 80 squirrel figures race around the yard and over the roof with a similar number of dog figures in hot pursuit. Post-chase, exhausted, each dog finds himself on the wrong porch. Tragically in sync, they circle the house simultaneously to find each other, preventing their own success. Each progresses from patience—hunger, rain, waiting overnight—to true grief, sure the other’s gone. Dog posture, value and composition create poignant pangs—and stunned joy as the dogs reunite when (and where) nature calls. Frazee conveys painful and soothing depth with ease, which is especially impressive given that Boot and Shoe’s eyes can't be seen.

Read unhurried, in a lap, again and again.   (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2247-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A dazzlingly poetic photo album of the insect world for tots on up. (Picture book. 2 & up)

STEP GENTLY OUT

Breathtaking photos and an exquisite poem capture a bug’s-eye view of nature.

One can only hope the present collaboration will be the first of many between nature photographer Lieder and Frost (Hidden, 2011, etc.), one of the most gifted, versatile children’s poets writing today, for the synthesis of word and image in this short picture book is so finely wed that the final page turn leaves one begging for more. While Frost’s lightly rhymed declarative verse encourages children to experience the natural world with care and openness to the tiny wonders of insect life around them, Lieder’s richly colored intimate close ups offer every reason why. “Step gently out,” Frost advises, pointing out how “the creatures shine with stardust, / they’re splashed with morning dew. / In song and dance and stillness, they share the world with you.” Golden-hued endpapers catch a honeybee and firefly mid-flight; the volume also spotlights the less-frequently spied praying mantis, katydid and damselfly, alongside more common insects. For precise readers wishing to know, for example, that the fuzzy, stoplight-colored creature twisting around a blade of grass happens to be a tussock moth caterpillar, the volume’s endnotes include brief descriptions of the featured species.

A dazzlingly poetic photo album of the insect world for tots on up. (Picture book. 2 & up)

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5601-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

A luminous celebration of family, food and home.

DAY BY DAY

Day by day, brick by brick, a community is built in this winning tribute to fellowship and family.

Across a golden prairie, a family of pigs heads west. Their small actions grow in significance as bricks become a house, beloved paraphernalia create a home, neighbors are welcomed and friendships begin. With each handsome spread, the author rephrases the proverb she was inspired by: “little by little, the bird builds its nest.” Words flow on a curvature that matches the lyrical nature of both text and artwork. Sophisticated, digital illustrations done in a pastel color palette dazzle the senses, allowing readers to feel the vastness of sky, the heat of summer; to smell the scent of flowers and fields; and to hear the slow dance-floor melody as they safely drift to sleep. Gal skillfully employs the computer to create a handmade, collage aesthetic. Through her application of textures, she creates a world that’s rich in pattern, color and, most of all, love. As pigs gather around a table, under a festive tree at twilight to enjoy the bounty they have grown, they give thanks.

A luminous celebration of family, food and home. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86959-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

From the beaver’s coat to the tiger lily’s petals to the snakeskin, this fish tale is a keeper.

FISH HAD A WISH

From the I Like to Read series

Take a conventional story, add a new art technique—and voilà, a striking picture book is born.

Fish has a wish to be some creature other than what he is: a bird, so he can fly high in the sky; a turtle, so he can nap on a sunny rock; a skunk, so he can make a big stink; or a bobcat, a bee, a beaver, a butterfly or a snake. But when a mayfly lands on the water, Fish eats it in one bite and declares: “That was so good!…I wish to stay a fish.” Part of the publisher’s I Like to Read series, the book's eye-catching artwork will fascinate young readers (and adults). The double-page spreads have wood-grain backgrounds that dramatically grab attention and appropriately evoke Fish’s woodland pond environment. Some of the "digi-wood" illustrations are more invigorating than others, but all of them are captivating. Striations and hashes of color create patterns and textures. This technique is new for Garland, and he has cast his net with vigor and aplomb.

From the beaver’s coat to the tiger lily’s petals to the snakeskin, this fish tale is a keeper. (Picture book/early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2394-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

There is much to enjoy here, and the illustrations and allusions beg for repeat readings.

WHAT'S THE TIME, MR. WOLF?

Readers check in on Mr. Wolf every hour of his birthday, but it seems like the poor guy just can’t catch a break on his special day.

Four-and-twenty blackbirds wake him up (at 7 a.m.), asking him the titular question. His grumpy answer? “It’s time for blackbird pie.” His porcine neighbors keep him from a snooze by slamming their doors on their way to work (“time for bacon sandwiches”). And the day continues in this vein: The letter carrier (a girl in a red hood) skips his house, his cupboard is bare, it rains on the way to the store, and every hour, fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters check in on Mr.Wolf, asking him for the time. But readers won’t need to ask for the time. A marvelous mix of timepieces is scattered throughout the text and includes analog and digital clocks of all sorts: a sundial, a pocket watch, a wristwatch and a cuckoo clock, among others. By the time the hapless birthday boy is awoken from his nap by a fiddle-playing cat, observant readers will have guessed the “surprise” ending. But the time-telling practice and literary references aren’t even the best treasure here. Gliori’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations are both detailed and delicately executed, charming and wowing at the same time.

There is much to enjoy here, and the illustrations and allusions beg for repeat readings. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-3432-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Smart and accessible, charming and witty, this is one for educators and adventurers alike.

CAT TALE

Hall cleverly plays with homophones in this diverting word adventure.

Three curious cats, propelled by their imaginations, bring books to life as they traverse spacious, white spreads. Together they “flee a steer,” “steer a plane,” “plane a board” and “board a train.” Each sentence or scenario offers hints of what’s to come. Discerning compositions and a rhyming text further drive the momentum until, alas! The words’ many meanings confound these friendly felines. Humorous permutations ensue as the kitties try to untangle their tales. After they successfully "shoo a truly naughty gnu," (it's munching shoes—truly naughty indeed!), things go sadly awry. "They use their paws to rock a squashberry! Rock a squashberry?" Once back on track, they befriend a bear, sail a whale and ultimately find comfort and contentment in words. Digitally collaged illustrations with appealing characters pop from the page. The artwork, simple in its appearance yet interwoven with the text with utmost sophistication, playfully offers the easiest and funniest lesson on homophones possible, inviting repeat readings and likely inspiring continuing silliness.

Smart and accessible, charming and witty, this is one for educators and adventurers alike. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-191516-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A doll of a beginning reader.

PENNY AND HER DOLL

From the Penny series

Following Penny and Her Song (2012), Henkes delivers an even stronger slice of anthropomorphic mouse life for beginning readers.

The story opens with Penny chatting amicably with her mother in the garden. Penny smells the roses while Mama weeds, and then the mailman delivers a package from Gram. Inside is a doll for Penny, with a note reading, “I saw this doll when I was shopping. I thought you would love her. I hope you will.” And, she does. The fly in the ointment is Penny's struggle to name the doll. Her parents make suggestions, but none seem right, and they reassure her, “Try not to think too hard…Then maybe a name will come to you.” Sure enough, after taking her doll on a tour of the house and then into the garden, the perfect name arises: “[T]his is Rose!” she announces. Henkes always excels at choosing just-right names for his characters (see Chester, Wilson, Lilly, Sheila Rae and, of course, Chrysanthemum and her “absolutely perfect” moniker), so this story seems particularly at home in his oeuvre. The familiarity of Henkes’ mouse world, as well as expertly paced and controlled storytelling for new readers, mark this as a new classic, earning Penny a firm place alongside the not-so-creatively-named Frog, Toad, Little Bear and that celebrated Cat in the Hat.

A doll of a beginning reader. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208199-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Be forewarned: Youngsters will find Charley as irresistible as Henry does and will no doubt beg for puppies of their own.

CHARLEY'S FIRST NIGHT

The tenderness a child feels for his new puppy seeps from the pages of a book sure to be instantly beloved.

 “I carried him in my old baby blanket, which was soft and midnight blue, and we were new together and I was very, very careful not to slip in the snow and I thought about his name.” Charley Korn is the puppy; the young narrator is Henry Korn. Hest’s stream-of-consciousness sentences are interspersed with short, declarative statements and bits of dialogue, creating a dreamy, lyrical cadence. Oxenbury’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are infused with softness and warmth, depicting the loving bond between boy and dog. Even the design of the book, with text and pictures set within wide borders on each page, inspires a feeling of intimacy. Once home, Henry shows Charley around ("This is home, Charley") and recounts his parents’ expectations, including the one where Charley will sleep in the kitchen—alone—forever. Henry dutifully arranges Charley’s bed, but the nighttime crying begins. After the second rescue, Henry shows Charley his room, where Charley wants to be put on Henry’s bed—or so Henry interprets. Thus the two spend the night, predictably the first of many, cuddled together.

Be forewarned: Youngsters will find Charley as irresistible as Henry does and will no doubt beg for puppies of their own. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4055-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Hats off! (Picture book. 4-8)

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2012

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Caldecott Medal Winner

THIS IS NOT MY HAT

From the Hat Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Klassen combines spare text and art to deliver no small measure of laughs in another darkly comic haberdashery whodunit.

While not a sequel to I Want My Hat Back (2011), the story does include a hat, a thief (a little fish) and a wronged party (a big fish). This time, first-person narration follows the thief, whose ego far outstrips his size as he underestimates the big fish’s tracking abilities. Meanwhile, much of the art follows the big fish on his hunt, creating a pleasing counterpoint with the text. For example, a page reading “…he probably won’t notice that it’s gone” shows not the thieving piscine narrator but the big fish looking up toward the top of his own bare head; he clearly has noticed that his hat is gone, and the chase is on! Sublime book design exploits the landscape format, with dogged movement from left to right across the double-page spreads. This culminates in a page reading “I knew I was going to make it,” as the little fish disappears on the recto into plants evocative of Leo Lionni’s setting in Swimmy (1963), while a narrow-eyed big fish enters the verso. The little fish is clearly doomed—a fact coyly confirmed by wordless page turns revealing the big fish swimming away, now from right to left, hat firmly on head.

Hats off! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5599-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A spectacular collection—“And,” the editor notes with remarkable understatement, “the pictures are pretty nice too!”...

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY

200 POEMS WITH PHOTOGRAPHS THAT SQUEAK, SOAR, AND ROAR!

Gathered by the United States children's poet laureate, 200 (mostly) lighthearted poems from the likes of Basho and Ben Franklin, Leadbelly, Jack Prelutsky and Joyce Sidman share space with eye-popping animal photographs.

A well-stirred mix of old and recent limericks, haiku, short lyrics, shaped poems and free verse, the poetry ranges far and wide. There are rib ticklers like Gelett Burgess’ “Purple Cow” and Laura E. Richards’ “Eletelephony” (the latter’s line “Howe’er it was, he got his trunk / Entangled in the telephunk” dated in these days of cellphones but still hilarious to read, especially aloud). Others are more serious, such as Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s graceful tribute to an indoor centipede—“a ballet of legs / gliding / skating / skimming / across the stage of white porcelain”—and David McCord’s elegiac “Cocoon.” All are placed on or next to page after page of riveting wildlife portraits (with discreet identifying labels), from a ground-level view of a towering elephant to a rare shot of a butterfly perched atop a turtle. Other standouts include a dramatic spray of white egret plumage against a black background and a precipitous bug’s-eye look down a bullfrog’s throat. Lewis adds advice for budding animal poets to the excellent bibliography and multiple indexes at the end.

A spectacular collection—“And,” the editor notes with remarkable understatement, “the pictures are pretty nice too!” (Poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4263-1009-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Beautifully benign illustrations conjure powerful familial feelings

CHLOE

Who wouldn’t want to put on a monster show in a big, cardboard box or pop bubble wrap at rapid-fire speed?

After a new television ruins “family fun time,” Chloe, the middle bunny in a brood of 21, tries to pull her brothers and sisters from its glowing grip. Colored-ink drawings hover on lush, creamy paper, offering delightfully dreamy details: the bunnies’ fur, pert mouths and dewy eyes, their clothes’ stripes and patterns, their bodies clustered together around the house. On one dizzying double-page spread, Chloe levitates at the epicenter of the domestic swirl, her family circling swiftly around her. McCarty says simply and directly to middle children everywhere, “Chloe was in the middle.” The narrative maintains perfect pacing throughout, speeding up with long sentences and slowing down with abbreviated lines that allow readers to linger on the soft, mesmerizing artwork (so many bunnies!). A bustling dinner scene shows the family nibbling on every kind of spring veggie; readers’ eyes roam from one end of the table to the other and back again, studying each whiskered face and plate. Fashion (eyeglasses, dresses, shirts) and minute tweaks in expression individualize each rabbit, while Chloe always manages to shine. McCarty captures the tensile ties strung among siblings, parents, genders and ages in every household.

Beautifully benign illustrations conjure powerful familial feelings . (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-114291-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

LULU AND THE DUCK IN THE PARK

From the Lulu series , Vol. 1

A warmhearted beginning to a new chapter-book series delights from the first few sentences.

“Lulu was famous for animals. Her famousness for animals was known throughout the whole neighborhood.” So it begins, revealing its bouncy language and its theme, illustrated by a cheery image of Lulu with bunnies at her feet, a parrot on her shoulder and a mouse in her hair. Lulu’s best friend is her cousin Mellie, who is famous for several things but most notably losing sweaters, pencils and everything else. Her teacher in Class Three is Mrs. Holiday, who endures the class guinea pig but does not think it needs animal companions, not even Lulu's dog. When the class goes to Tuesday swimming at the pool by the park, however, and Lulu finds a duck egg, which she takes back to class—that is not an animal, right? Well, not yet. What Lulu and Mellie do to protect the egg, get through class and not outrage Mrs. Holiday is told so simply and rhythmically, and so true to the girls’ perfectly-logical-for-third-graders’ thinking, that it will beguile young readers completely. The inclusion of the kid who always gets a bloody nose and a math lesson on perimeter only adds to the verisimilitude and the fun. Lulu’s classroom is full of children of all colors, and Lulu and Mellie are the color of strong tea with cream, judging from the cover.

Utterly winning. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4808-0

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Ready or not! Here comes a book worth finding.

HIDE & SEEK

Expert hide-and-seekers will hear the hushed scuttles and feel the quickened pulses as a group of animals plays a rain forest game of hide-and-seek.

Elephant counts while his animal friends scurry. Butterflies flutter around the crouching little elephant, a new one joining in with each page turn, adding up to a swarm that equals each giddy announcement: 1, 2, 3! Meanwhile, flamingo, chameleon, giraffe, rhino, monkey, tortoise, the starlings and bush babies hasten to get hidden. Momentum mounts as readers alternate between an animal wondering, for example, “Can I hide behind this rock?” (on left-hand pages) and the elephant’s escalating counting (on the right). Na also directs readers’ eyes up into the canopy and down into the underbrush, where creatures look for cover, getting them to crane their heads and look at the forest from every angle. Text size swells and reduces, indicating emphasis, and keeps the antsy energy going. Digital layering produces a fantastic fusion of painterly textures, soft patterns and fine outlines, yielding ethereal illustrations with dappled colors that shine like light through a leaf. So many undulating components could easily turn into roiling confusion on the page, but here each element coheres beautifully, rendering a sweetly swirling, tie-dyed rain forest awash in reds, yellows, greens and blues.

Ready or not! Here comes a book worth finding. (Picture book. 2-5)  

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-87078-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

How extraordinary to visit Mars in Spirit; readers will be very glad of the Opportunity.

THE MIGHTY MARS ROVERS

THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF SPIRIT AND OPPORTUNITY

What’s it like to explore Mars? Did life ever exist on Earth’s red neighbor? To find out, readers need only soar along with this enthralling account of the adventures of two rovers designed to seek evidence on Mars of water that could have once supported life.

Expected to last three months, the indefatigable Spirit and Opportunity incredibly carried out their missions for more than six years. In the process, lead scientist Steve Squyres and his team learned more about and probed more terrain on Mars than anyone before. Readers are carried aloft by Rusch’s exciting, clear prose and the rovers' exceptional photos sent Earthside. Along with the team, young people celebrate every thrilling moment of success—yes, there once was water on Mars!—and accept failures and disappointments. This is edge-of-your-seat reading as the author explains how setbacks were handled. Readers are not only drawn in by the dedication, hard work and emotions of the people involved, but they will also, like the scientists themselves, feel proprietary toward the rovers—and, fortunately, there’s an update about them. One quibble: the ample backmatter has little specifically for children. Another stellar outing in the consistently excellent Scientists in the Field series.

How extraordinary to visit Mars in Spirit; readers will be very glad of the Opportunity. (sources, chapter notes, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-47881-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

The Steads’ work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in...

BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL

Within a gentle tale of hibernation and renewal, the Steads’ second collaboration (after Caldecott-winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee) explores a second, internal theme: the nature of the storytelling narrative itself.

Increasingly sleepy, Bear pads through the fall landscape with “a story to tell” before winter’s sleep. Mouse, Duck, Frog and Mole are well into their own winter preparations and cannot listen. Months later, when the reunited friends gather beneath a full moon, Bear can’t remember his story. Helpfully, his friends suggest a protagonist (“Maybe your story is about a bear”), a plot (“Maybe your story is about the busy time just before winter”), and supporting characters (themselves). Thus, Bear begins his story as this one ends: The first line of his story is both the last line of the book and its first. Erin Stead’s pictures quietly appeal: Pencil line and shading define basic features of animals and trees, while washes and smudges of paint suggest seasonal colors, Bear’s rotund mass, and the brushy cobalt expanse of starlit skies. Sharing an affinity with Jerry Pinkney yet evoking the sparer 1960s work of Evaline Ness and Nonny Hogrogian, Stead’s compositions exude an ineffable, less-is-more charm.

The Steads’ work adopts a folkloric approach to cooperative relationships; the affectionately rendered animals that stand in for humans convey a nurturing respect for child readers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-745-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A deeply satisfying story that speaks to the universal desires to be nurtured and to find a home.

A HOME FOR BIRD

Vernon is both a toad and a forager for found objects. Ambling along with his latest haul, he chances upon a creature he seeks to know and then to help. 

Observant children will have noticed (next to the copyright information) the overloaded “Careful Moving Co.” pickup truck barreling down the road, where a bump releases a cuckoo from its clock spring. On re-readings, additional story elements will be discovered in the truck. Vernon observes that “Bird is shy…but also a very good listener,” when he introduces Bird to his friends. He and his pals conclude that Bird is lost and unhappy, so the thoughtful, resourceful amphibian readies a teacup boat for the journey to help this quiet stranger return home. They check out a birdcage, birdhouse, mailbox, nest and telephone wires—to no avail, but “Vernon was a determined friend.” After the weary pair seeks refuge inside a familiar farmhouse clock, Vernon wakes to a cheery “Cuckoo!” and all is well. Stead’s loose gouache strokes and crayon scribbles create a disheveled world just right for suggesting a junk-collector’s paradise. Wide lines mix with thin curves, and wet and dry strokes commingle for a dappled, breezy setting; blue and green canopies often frame the page borders. Stead’s sensitive telling and white background create space for contemplation.

A deeply satisfying story that speaks to the universal desires to be nurtured and to find a home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-711-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Indian folk art triumphantly meets 17th-century English trick verse in this sophisticated graphic venture fit for middle...

I SAW A PEACOCK WITH A FIERY TAIL

Creative worlds collude and collide in this contemporary rendering of a well-known 17th-century English poem.

Seldom does a book review address a book’s design, but in this visual stunner from publisher Tara, the literal setting of the words is as key to the volume’s success as are its text and illustrations. Urveti, an acclaimed artist from Madhya Pradesh in central India, chooses for his subject an oft-anthologized anonymous circa-1665 “trick” poem, depicting the wily text with ravishingly detailed black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings in a style typical of Gond tribal art. The other third of this global collaboration is Brazilian designer Yamakami’s exquisitely thoughtful setting of the 12-line poem, which highlights the reflexivity of the six couplets. The meanings of these couplets can be gleaned reading each line with the rhyme from beginning to end, or—the tricky part—against it, from the middle of one line to the middle of the next. Take, for example, the poem’s opening: “I saw a peacock with a fiery tail / I saw a blazing comet drop down hail / I saw a cloud….” Through the use of intricate die cuts, Yamakami subtly leads readers from a spread featuring a plumped-up peacock to the image of a comet with its “fiery tail” of metaphorical “hail,” then to a cloud dropping the more literal icy phenomenon. These careful cuts draw readers through the work from cover to cover, brilliantly underscoring both the poem’s dizzying, dreamlike essence and its thematic obsession with the subjective nature of seeing.

Indian folk art triumphantly meets 17th-century English trick verse in this sophisticated graphic venture fit for middle graders on up. (Picture book/poetry. 10 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-93-80340-14-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Tara Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills.

MOUSTERPIECE

Who needs a cookie? Give a mouse a paintbrush!

Janson lives in a museum, in a cozy corner with a pillow and a rose-speckled blanket. One day, she stumbles upon something new, “and her little world opened.” Striding across a gray page, with a soft white glow around her figure to show energy, Janson emerges into a white background and finds—art! Immediately entranced, this self-possessed, humble rodent sets to work copying the masters. A grid of pop-art self-portraits (Janson’s face, with her tenderly expressive eyebrow angle) pays homage to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn series; Janson reclining in a jungle recalls Rousseau; Janson’s snout, elongated and triangulated into cubism, echoes Picasso. Each clean, white page centers Janson at work; an occasional wall angle, easel or dropcloth nimbly enhances the minimal composition. Janson’s gray body and striped skirt are warm hues of low saturation, sending focus to the colors within her artwork: Campbell’s red soup can with mouse face, à la Warhol; blues and yellows for van Gogh’s Starry Night; primaries for a geometric Mondrian mouse and a Munch mouse Scream. When museum renovation bars Janson from the art wing, she weeps, truly bereft, then forges ahead, painting from memory and defining her own style. Discovery and an exhibit follow. Janson’s climactic mousterpiece features canvas texture showing through the paint, honoring her beloved medium.

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills. (notes on 22 artists referenced) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-549-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Terrifying, life-affirming and memorable.

THE DOGS OF WINTER

An orphaned boy in Russia survives as a member of a pack of dogs.

Ivan is only 4 years old when he runs away to the streets of Moscow. At first, he is taken in by a scruffy group of children under one adult’s control. They live in the subway stations, begging and stealing food. He soon befriends and is adopted by a small group of dogs and becomes one of them. They survive on the trains in the winter and in the forest during the summer. Ivan keeps a button belonging to his (probably dead) mother as a talisman and remembers the fairy tales she read to him. Increasingly, his time with the dogs provides nourishment for both his hungry belly and his soul. Threats are ever present in the form of police, gangs of teens and wild animals in the forest. Two years later he is captured, and after months of care, he regains his humanness. Pyron has based her story on magazine articles about a Russian feral child, one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were disrupted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. She presents Ivan’s story as a first-person narrative in beautifully composed writing enhanced by Ivan’s visual acuity and depth of emotion.

Terrifying, life-affirming and memorable. (author’s note, bibliography) (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-39930-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A visual stunner.

THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE

In this splendid retelling of Aesop’s familiar fable, a country mouse leaves his bucolic existence to sample the glitz and glam of the city, only to discover there’s absolutely no place like home.

Country mouse “live[s] a quiet life among the seasons.” He is perfectly content until his “fine, sleek” town cousin comes to visit, criticizes the mud and dangerous wildlife (a sleeping fawn, in the illustration), and boasts about the city’s “rich, exotic foods.” Urging his cousin to see the wonders of the city for himself, town mouse departs, leaving country mouse discontent and with “a longing for new sights and sounds.” Country mouse hitches a ride to the city, where he discovers electric lights and towers of glass and stone. His cousin’s apartment is indeed luxurious and the food delicious, but country mouse soon yearns for the simple pleasures of home. The elegant, simple text contrasts the natural beauty of the countryside with the artificiality of the city. Sumptuous watercolor illustrations enhance the rural/urban juxtaposition with luminous close-ups of country mouse immersed in the seasonal flora and fauna of the English countryside and overwhelmed by the “noise and bustle and hum” of a 1930s-era city at Christmas. The richly detailed illustrations invite and reward close inspection.

A visual stunner. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6098-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2012

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

Just label it F for funny.

Z IS FOR MOOSE

A wry twist on an alphabet story makes for laugh-out-loud fun.

Poor Moose. He tries to get into the alphabetic act on every letter page from D to L, but Zebra, who’s directing the assemblage, insists it’s not his turn yet and that he must move off the page. When it IS time for M, Zebra decides to go with Mouse, and Moose flips his antlers—well, his lid. Zebra tries to console the despondent moose, telling him he can still be in the book even though the only letter left is Z. Solution? Z becomes “Zebra’s friend, Moose.” How perfect that Z-elinsky is the illustrator. His often-elegant style turns comedic here, with brightly colored borders framing each letter in a simple scene. The borders become a design device for Moose, as he pokes his head over the edges or stomps the scene within angrily. In others, Moose tries to camouflage himself, as when he squeezes behind an Ice-cream cone or hitchhikes a ride in the Kangaroo’s pouch. Dialogue balloons express Moose’s eagerness, asking, “Now?” and declaring (mistakenly), “Here it comes!” Zebra, wearing a referee’s black-and-white striped shirt and carrying a clipboard, answers, “NO, not yet!” Kids who are learning their ABCs or have just learned them will find this hysterical, and it has great potential for storytimes.

Just label it F for funny. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-079984-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

Soothing and satisfying; perfect for reading on the porch on a summer evening, preferably next to a dog.

HOMER

Stories of patiently waiting dogs have been around for just about forever, or at least since Homer wrote about faithful Argos recognizing Odysseus after a 20-year absence. In Cooper’s touching story, the patient pup is an aging yellow Lab named Homer, whose love for his family is as deep and wide as the ocean outside their cottage.

At daybreak Homer is already lying on the front porch, looking out over a field and beach, as well as the sea beyond. As the family members (including three more dogs) pass by Homer on their way out, they all invite him to come along to play in the water, dig in the sand or bike to the store. Homer replies to each in turn that he is happy to stay right there on the porch, watching and waiting. His family returns, and the pleasant day winds down, with Homer finally curling up in a cozy armchair for the night, content because “I have everything I want.” Soft-focus watercolor illustrations effectively convey the seaside atmosphere with a combination of formats, including some pages with consecutive panels and wordless double-page spreads showing a wide view of the cottage and beach and the inside of the home with the family getting ready for bed.

Soothing and satisfying; perfect for reading on the porch on a summer evening, preferably next to a dog. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-201248-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

An excellent addition to both the folk tale genre and the early-reader shelf.

NEVER TRUST A TIGER

From the Animal Stories series , Vol. 2

Does one good turn deserve another?

A merchant stops to free a tiger stuck in a hole by lowering a tree trunk to it, and what does he get for his trouble? A growl and a show of sharp teeth from the hungry tiger, who is planning to make a meal of him!  Taken aback, the merchant protests that this is not fair. At first, the tiger says, “I don’t want to be fair. I only want to be full!” But he finally agrees to a test, if only to quiet the merchant down so he can be eaten up. Colorful, energetic acrylics work together with the carefully selected vocabulary, lucid text and generous repetition to make this Korean folk tale a strong choice for early readers. In the end, the deciding vote is left to a hare, who seems confused by the quandary and asks that the two show him what happened, so the tiger gets back in the hole. The hare advises the merchant to leave immediately, and as to whether a good deed should follow a good deed, the hare says, “That all depends on who you help!” Young readers will be drawn in by the measured suspense and leave with a chuckle.

An excellent addition to both the folk tale genre and the early-reader shelf. (Folk tale/early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84686-776-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

This primer on friendship wrapped in hijinks is paced for maximum pleasure.

EAST DRAGON, WEST DRAGON

In this variant of "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse," two dragons learn to appreciate each other’s talents and milieus.

Sophisticated East Dragon lives in the emperor’s palace with eight siblings. He dabbles in brush painting; a double-page spread of his family reveals skills ranging from sushi preparation and Kabuki performances to landscaping and storytelling. Whimsical caricatures hint at desktop Zen sand gardens and Pueblo storyteller dolls, anachronisms creating an additional level of enjoyment. West Dragon’s habitat is a “boy cave.” Surrounded by a tricycle, soccer ball, television set and books, he endures regular intrusions by the king’s knights: “Nothing made a cave smell nastier than roast knight.” While the dragons snub each other from their respective corners of the world, truth be told, each fears the other. It isn’t until West Dragon’s plot to distract the bothersome knights backfires, and he nearly drowns at the hand of marauding pirates, that their paths cross. Having just admired his counterpart’s great wingspan and ability to fly, East Dragon swims swiftly to the rescue. All ends very well at a party complete with karaoke, pizza and a piñata. Eversole’s spare narrative mixes tongue-in-cheek exaggeration, childhood fears and adventure, inspiring Campbell to contrast the rough and the refined, designing detailed watercolor worlds brimming with humor and beauty.

This primer on friendship wrapped in hijinks is paced for maximum pleasure. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-689-85828-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

Oh, yes! This is a terrific new picture book.

OH, NO!

With text that begs to be read aloud and sumptuous illustrations made by a master printmaker, this picture book reads like an instant classic.

Jacket art populated by several animals that appear in the story establishes the Asian jungle setting: A toothsome tiger lurks, while a loris, mouse and frog cower on front and back boards. The palette is rich with shades of brown, green, orange and bluish-gray, and the cover’s scene carries over on to endpapers that show Tiger stalking Frog. The chase continues across frontmatter pages until the first spread reads: “Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!” Dramatic visual perspective captures Frog’s fall, and the following spread shows Tiger settling in for his next move on his prey. As Tiger waits, a speech balloon heralds the titular cry, “Oh, no!” Clearly, Frog is in trouble, and on ensuing pages, several animals make rescue attempts, only to fall into the hole as well. Finally, a trumpeting, stomping elephant arrives and uses its trunk to save almost all of the trapped animals: Tiger (who had tried to get to the animals with dinner rather than rescue on his mind), falls into the hole on a prior spread, and after the elephant’s valiant rescue, they all cry “Oh, no!” when he cries for help.

Oh, yes! This is a terrific new picture book. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-84271-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

More Book Lists

The Magazine: Kirkus Reviews

Jenn Shapland reclaims a queer icon in My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

subscribe
  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2019 winners.

Great Books & News Curated For You

Be the first to read books news and see reviews, news and features in Kirkus Reviews. Get awesome content delivered to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

Looks good !! Please provide a valid email.