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Young Willie Jerome is up on the roof of a Harlem tenement blowing his horn. The trills and riffs are sweet music to his sister Judy's ears, but no one else in the neighborhood is moved: not the grocer, not the stoop sitters, not his brother, and especially not his mother. Narrator Judy bebops to the melody; she tries to convince others to give his hot rooftop jazz a chance, but all they hear is a lot of noise. Finally the girl coaxes her mother to close her eyes and open her soul to the music (a sentimental, adult idea, perhaps, but Judy's demonstrated sensitivity brings substance to her words). Willie Jerome doesn't let them down. Duncan's sharp, laconic text is appealingly cadenced—a smart prose poem where every word has a purpose: ``I been groovin' to his noonday songs. That's why I got this smile on my face. That's why I got this bop in my stride.'' It's the language of the city, and so too are the voluptuous, moody oil paintings. The artwork pulls readers right in. Here are palpable urban tableaux: readers will feel summer's lazy drift, sense the heat rising off the sidewalk. Judy's pleasure in the music is evident in every gesture; in the depictions of Willie Jerome, his obsession becomes a triumph—and he becomes heroic. A fine tribute to going one's own way. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-02-733208-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.

A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Dedicated “to children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes,” this elemental debut depicts a bunny with big, looping ears demonstrating to a rather thick, unseen questioner (“Are you still standing around in that box?”) that what might look like an ordinary carton is actually a race car, a mountain, a burning building, a spaceship or anything else the imagination might dream up. Portis pairs each question and increasingly emphatic response with a playscape of Crockett Johnson–style simplicity, digitally drawn with single red and black lines against generally pale color fields. Appropriately bound in brown paper, this makes its profound point more directly than such like-themed tales as Marisabina Russo’s Big Brown Box (2000) or Dana Kessimakis Smith’s Brave Spaceboy (2005). (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-112322-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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