It turns out that dance can be good for the stomach.

MARIA THE MATADOR

A food obsession takes a girl into a bullfighting arena.

Pigtailed Maria, a Spaniard, has one true love: churros. One is good, many are great. Happily for her, she reads a poster that guarantees a “LIFETIME SUPPLY OF CHURROS TO THE MATADOR LONGEST IN THE ARENA.” Unhappily for her, Maria is not built to fight bulls. The other matadors are scornful of her, but once in the fight they are all bested. It is now Maria’s turn to face that “most ferocious-looking bull.” She walks up to him and does not fight or wave her cape; rather, she invites him to dance. The bull has never heard this request, having only ever faced aggressive opponents. In a lovely double-page spread, the animal and Maria, fan in hand, show off their graceful moves. They are next seen happily enjoying churros at Maria’s table. Memories of another famous bull, Ferdinand, come to mind as beauty bests fighting. While Lambelet’s tale is purposefully pacifist, caregivers dealing with a child who will eat only one food may not appreciate the conclusion; others will wish for a note about churros, a fried dessert. The stylized pencil-and-digital illustrations depict angular humans and animals, and the color palette is primarily browns and purples. The typeface uses bold, capitalized words for emphasis.

It turns out that dance can be good for the stomach. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62414-656-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation.

THE BEAR MUST GO ON

Four woodland animal friends put on a show.

Rabbit, Squirrel, and aptly named Other Squirrel (who has slightly redder fur than Squirrel) are a flurry of activity. They are going to put on a show. “A BIG show.…The BEST show!” It will have hats (tall ones), tickets (shiny ones), and a curtain (red—no, green). There are many decisions to be made. Bear, however, does not want to be part of it. He is too shy. He would prefer to be the note taker. Rabbit, Squirrel, and Other Squirrel fire off ideas, amending one another’s at furious speed, and Bear writes them all down. Scribbles appear in the white space surrounding the boulderlike ursine’s head. The ideas pile up; debut illustrator Todd deftly covers an entire page while Bear hunches in the middle, furiously writing. He hums a tune to keep himself calm. On the night of the performance, everything seems ready. Everything except…the show! They were so bogged down with the details, no one figured out what the show would be. The title gives away the ending from the very start, but Bear’s pluck is nevertheless laudable. Petty’s comedic quips are echoed in the frenzied art, with Bear looming large yet timid to ground it all. Limited, skilled use of panels helps to control the pacing.

A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3747-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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