WHEN I DRAW A PANDA

A child and an imaginary panda draw together in this picture book.

The unnamed narrator, a young child with dark hair and light skin, loves to draw. When the child draws a panda and then a hat for the panda to wear, “he is my panda,” and he goes on to respond to instructions from an unseen “they” by applying his own vision to what they’ve asked for. Clearly the panda is a stand-in for the imagination of the child. Unfortunately, a repetitive point/counterpoint expressed in various iterations of “when they say to draw a perfect… / my panda prefers to draw an imperfect…” becomes a one-note push for the inspiration and fulfillment found in drawing without rules or expectations. And the murky nature of who “they” are—overbearing parents? teachers?—makes for an uncomfortable divisiveness. While the illustrations are loose and flow-y, as befits a story about unhampered creativity, the viewpoint of each double-page spread stagnates: Readers look straight on at panda, child, and blackboard with no change in perspective, and only occasionally does the viewpoint move closer or farther away. The type occasionally leaves its ordered structure, but that’s just not enough to give the overall story any real animation or originality. Readers may be encouraged to draw without expectation of perfection—the point of the story—but the us-versus-them aspect is off-putting. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22% of actual size.)

Sadly, uninspiring. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5148-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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