It is no small thing for a 7-year-old to cope with change. Branford offers chapter-book readers an appealing model.

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VIOLET MACKEREL'S PERSONAL SPACE

From the Violet Mackerel series , Vol. 4

Leaving hurts, but Violet Mackerel finds something that helps.

The thoughtful protagonist of Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot (2012) first develops her Theory of Leaving Small Things Behind when her family leaves the beach house where they’ve spent a lovely holiday. Then her mother and her boyfriend, Vincent, announce their plans to marry and move to a larger place. Violet’s excited about the wedding but nervous about the move. Her older brother, Dylan, wanting none of it, relocates to a tent in the garden. The third-person, present-tense narrative convincingly sticks to Violet’s point of view as she and her family negotiate this tricky time. The gentle tone reflects the (nearly unbelievable) patience and understanding with which the adults deal with Dylan’s unhappiness and involve Violet and her sister, Nicola, in their plans. Fourth in a series of books now grown to six in New Zealand, this is similarly insightful about family dynamics. As always, in the U.S. illustrations, the “O” in Violet’s name on the cover and title page as well as the final grayscale illustrations inside (not seen) reflect small things from the story.

It is no small thing for a 7-year-old to cope with change. Branford offers chapter-book readers an appealing model. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3591-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Charming, funny and true to life.

DORY FANTASMAGORY

From the Dory Fantasmagory series , Vol. 1

With words, pictures and pictures with words, 6-year-old Dory, called Rascal, recounts how she finally gets her older brother and sister to play with her.

Rascal’s siblings complain that she’s always pestering them. She acts like a baby, she asks weird questions, and she chatters endlessly with her imaginary monster friend. So they tell her a kidnapping witch, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, is looking for her. In her efforts to avoid capture, Rascal becomes a dog. As a “dog,” she’s invisible to the little-girl–stealer but appealing to her older brother, who, it turns out, always wanted to have a dog. She maintains her dogginess all the way through a doctor’s checkup until a surprise vaccination spurs her to speech and retaliation. Rascal and her invented fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy (he doesn’t look much like a fairy godmother), use the ensuing timeout to concoct poison soup for the witch. Eventually, the witch is vanquished and order more or less restored. Redeemed in the eyes of her siblings because she’s brave enough to retrieve a bouncy ball from the toilet as well as wildly imaginative, Rascal finally gets her wish. Often just on the edge of out of control, this inventive child is irresistible and her voice, convincing. Childlike drawings, often embellished with hand-lettered narrative or speech bubbles, of round-headed humans, Sendak-ian monsters and a snaggle-toothed witch add to the humor.

Charming, funny and true to life. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4088-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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