WHAT THE KITE SAW

The first-person account of a child living through military occupation.

Though an author’s note says the story was inspired by Palestinian children, neither text nor illustrations specify where or when it takes place. Instead, it recounts a young child’s experience when soldiers in tanks occupy their town, taking father and brother away, which leaves the child with mother and a younger sibling. (The narrator has pale skin and dark hair, as do other family members.) The illustrations employ a muted palette of somber grays and browns with limited, expressive color indicating at turns danger and hope. The town is under a strict curfew, with the ever looming threat of the occupying force, though the art keeps overt violence off the page. Powerful compositions make the menace clear, such as one that foregrounds uniformed soldiers holding assault rifles with an array of staring children in the background looking tiny by comparison. The titular kite emerges as a symbol of hope and freedom when the child leads friends in making kites to fly above their town. When soldiers shoot them down, the child cuts the string and imagines it sailing away. With that act, the child imagines seeing what the kite sees. An affecting final scene shows the winged child flying above a vision of two figures standing by the sea. They can be read as the lost father and brother or perhaps as their spirits, lending a poignant ambiguity to the story’s end. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 17.5% of actual size.)

In a word, powerful. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77306-243-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

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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