A lovely, poetic, and compassionate tale with appealing images.

MARS ON LIFE

This picture book for all ages explores the difficulty of finding connections and meaning.

A curious, alienlike creature with an elephant’s trunk, pointy ears, enormous dark eyes, angel’s wings, and a Santa suit gazes shyly at readers from the first page. Maybe, the work suggests, this is how some of us might imagine an angel. Angels could take other forms, such as animals (so be kind to them). The story then shares a string of thoughtful observations. Our big brains are a gift, but sometimes they make us painfully aware of our loneliness or difference. We’re always hoping to encounter kindred spirits and experience a sense of relationship with the wonders of our existence: “If we are fortunate, we may connect with someone else—another native alien—from time to time.” Sometimes, though, we’re sidetracked or frightened. Even then, “monsters and demons are also creatures of light deep under the water,” with whom we also have a kinship. Curiosity, companionship, and angels in our lives will help us to feel truly at home, in a place where we’re loved and we belong. The tale offers a blessing that can help readers get to that place: “May we always be on the look-out for small, ordinary magic.” In her second picture book, puppeteer and playwright Sawyer tells a charming and lyrical story about the difficulties of and remedies for isolation. Well-chosen quotations from Mary Oliver and David Bowie bracket the tale, their very different styles somehow converging on the theme of imagination’s power to overcome distance. The story’s appreciation for oddity is both moving and hope-giving. The author’s illustrations have the appearance of blue ballpoint-pen lines filled in with gray, grayish-blue, and rich red accent colors. They have a naïve, quirky quality that fits in well with the text.

A lovely, poetic, and compassionate tale with appealing images.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 19

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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