“We don’t get to keep everyone we love who has ever lived. But we do get to remember them”: so true.



From the Ordinary Terrible Things series

Observations, advice, comfort, and ways of thinking about one of life’s “ordinary terrible things.”

Higginbotham follows up Divorce Is the Worst (2015) with a dark-skinned child at Gramma’s wake and funeral. People say, “I know exactly how you feel,” “She’s in a better place,” and like platitudes, and the child reacts with hurt anger: “Would I be in a better place if I died?!!” Exchanges continue as the child gets home afterward, changes clothes, imagines talking with Gramma once again, asks those hard questions (“Why do we have to die?”), then follows Dad outside to stand in, and tend to, Gramma’s garden. The collage illustrations, constructed on squares of brown-paper bag with patchwork pieces of cut photos and cloth, have a somber look that brightens when corners and angles of flower and vegetable garden appear. The author’s own neatly printed background comments get a little metaphysical, but in general they are spot-on—in validating the child’s response to the aforementioned platitudes, in leaving room for individual beliefs about an afterlife, and in suggesting ways to ease the immediate sense of loss. A closing set of simple memorial activities will also be helpful, though some readers may find the references in that section (and, obliquely, earlier) to the death of a pet jarring in this context.

“We don’t get to keep everyone we love who has ever lived. But we do get to remember them”: so true. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-155861-925-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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