A soothing, fanciful adventure for those fretting about an upcoming performance.

READ REVIEW

THE PIANO RECITAL

In this Japanese import, a child imagines a fantastical mouse theater as a means of overcoming her piano-recital anxiety.

A glowering girl walks grimly forward on the title page, sheet music tucked under arm. Her red velvet dress, both celebratory and somber, reflects the duality of the occasion. As she repeats a calming mantra, she spies a “mouseling” doing the same. The latter invites the pixie-haired Momo—a young Japanese girl—to her mouse theater, where acrobats, dancers, and an orchestra perform. When it is the mouseling’s turn to go on stage, Momo graciously offers to accompany her on piano. As they fill the hall with music and joy, Momo realizes she has actually played at her own piano recital, and she stands to the audience’s applause. Using pencil, charcoal, and gouache, the artist uses a monochromatic palette to skillfully capture theatrical light and staging. Red and other, more-muted colors easily identify the protagonist and act as accents. As the fantasy world of mice and their performances is introduced, Miyakoshi’s artwork opens up into a lavish rendering of an exquisite mouse theater. Unfortunately, the visual density of the mouse world and the simplified interpretation of the human world—in particular the styling of Momo’s face—are not seamlessly merged. However, the beauty of the mice and their environment is a feast for the eyes.

A soothing, fanciful adventure for those fretting about an upcoming performance. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0257-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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