Castillo’s debut employs a playful metaphor to explore socioemotional skills, addressing readers directly with tender, encouraging language.
Minimalist, lightly textured ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict adorably blobby humanoid figures wearing hooded bodysuits in a range of colors. The primary figure, a short blob, has round red cheeks and wears what looks like a red, hooded snowsuit. Each figure has round black eyes and a red dot of a nose on a white face while ink linework carefully denotes the figures’ expressions so that even the youngest readers may decipher them. The accompanying text uses “ping” to explain and promote each figure’s ownership of their feelings and actions, while “pong” clearly and simply demonstrates that one cannot control others—one can only control one’s response to others. “Time to listen! The pong is giving you something // Is it something to learn? / Something to think about? / … / Something to challenge you? / Something to keep?” While most spreads have plain white (usually) or black backgrounds, one spread depicting “taking a pause” after receiving a “pong” utilizes a richly illustrated page of lush green leaves to illustrate how the pause can be “as long as you need.” Overall, the book’s design and deliberate pacing support its message; however, much of the text is printed in an unnecessarily large font that competes with, rather than complementing, the illustrations. This is most problematic in several visually busy spreads that include text in multiple point sizes, “pinging” unevenly from one spot illustration to the next.
A sweetly articulated and socially valuable message for readers of many ages. (Picturebook. 4-8)