Despite aesthetic faults, a cute story that expresses an important life lesson—treat others the way you want to be...

A SMIDGEN FOR A PIGEON

A scorned, humble Baltimore City pigeon works hard to feed his family.

Ray toils long hours hunting the streets for treasures to appease his boss, Jim, so he can provide breadcrumbs for his loving wife and daughter. It’s a dangerous life—kicks from unkind humans aren’t uncommon. Ray envies his neighbor, a carrier pigeon, who lives in a wooden house and eats lavishly. But Ray can’t hide who he is: not an angelic white dove, but a working-class rat with wings. In a moment’s notice he can fly away, though, escape his rotten life and forget all his worries. Fortunately, kids won’t get the wrong message from this book, Hobson’s first. Our hero, a family bird, knows the right thing to do in the end. The narrator urges readers to remember Ray’s story before they disparage another pigeon. The protagonist, part of a breed that’s rarely romanticized, is an unusual but apt choice for an emblem. It’s a sweet moral; one that can be extended to all beings. And it’s not the only lesson. “Why can’t people see past the dull colors of black and grey?” laments Ray, suggesting a racial undertone to the plot. The author writes in verse, and some rhymes detract from the overall story. A few of them are just plain contrived: The “carrier pigeon Rob” eats “corn on the cob.” In other instances, illogical words and phrases seem placed in sentences for the sole purpose of maintaining meter. Hobson’s painted cover illustrations are beautiful, but the gray-hued pictures within the book disappear against a poorly contrasting brown background.

Despite aesthetic faults, a cute story that expresses an important life lesson—treat others the way you want to be treated—from a unique point of view.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468123388

Page Count: 26

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2012

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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