The book’s potential utility in helping children cope with irrational fears is undermined by its absence of a credible story.

BIG BAD BUBBLE

La La Land is populated by scaredy-cat monsters.

According to the narrator, when bubbles pop, they reappear in La La Land, home of some remarkably uninspired-looking (and -named) monsters. Monsters who are terrified of bubbles. A bubble-gum bubble once popped on the face of a monster named Mogo, and his subsequent fright is the rather weak basis for the collective monster bubblephobia. As Mogo attempts to spread comical misinformation about bubbles, the narrator (who speaks to both the characters and readers) instructs readers to ignore him. A pace-crushing spread of haphazard facts about La La Land comes across as filler to bring this very slight effort up to 32 pages. In the end, the narrator convinces the monsters to face their fears using their fearsome physical qualities. Salmieri does his best, placing hairy, toothy monsters against a black background; a monster called Wumpus looks a little like Sendak’s horned Wild Thing. The final illustration, with the three smaller monsters astride their larger friend fleeing in apparent terror from a monarch butterfly, may be the funniest part of this book.

The book’s potential utility in helping children cope with irrational fears is undermined by its absence of a credible story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-04549-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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