Fosters familial connection and resilience; told in luxurious prose with illustrations worth framing.

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    Best Books Of 2018

IF YOU LOOK UP TO THE SKY

In this stunning picture book debut from Dalton, strikingly painted by veteran illustrator Sikorskaia (Big Cat, Little Fox, 2018, etc.), a girl sees the wisdom in her grandmother’s words across a multitude of beautiful skyscapes.

A little girl and her grandmother, both dark-skinned, look into the sky together. The grandmother tells the child that if she’s feeling lost but can see the moon through the clouds, she will “know you’re in the place you are meant to be.” If there is no moon, that is a moment to learn patience. If there are stars, they glow with the child’s accomplishments. Each skyscape represents something: A shooting star is the girl’s uniqueness; a storm shows that even bad moments can be exciting—and will pass; clouds are dreams waiting to be dreamed; and a cloudless sky shows anything is possible. Sikorskaia’s vibrant color choices stretch across double-page spreads, each with the girl showing a different aspect of her own personality that reflects the grandmother’s wisdom: She is in turn a ballet dancer, a hiker, a canoe paddler, a dreamer, and—at the end—a mother with a son of her own, sharing what her grandmother told her. The rhythm and cadence of Dalton’s prose are beautifully lyrical, and the tone is at once forward-looking and nostalgic: The world is full of possibility, and those we love are with us always.

Fosters familial connection and resilience; told in luxurious prose with illustrations worth framing.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59298-828-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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