Fables are fine, but why eschew facts? (Picture book. 4-7)

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WHY EVERGREENS KEEP THEIR LEAVES

An original pourquoi tale seeks to explain cardinal behavior.

This book does double duty, both explaining why coniferous trees remain green in the wintertime and also explaining why cardinals never migrate south. On the day that a little red bird injures her wing, just before the onset of winter, she decides to seek shelter in the branches of a strong tree. Unfortunately, the deciduous trees she encounters are less than inviting. The birch feels too weak, the oak too miserly, and the maple too self-absorbed to offer her any aid. Distraught, Little Redbird is comforted by a fir tree who, along with a blue spruce and a juniper, promises the bird food and shelter. This act of kindness is rewarded by the Frost Queen, who in turn informs her son Jack (who, like her, presents white and human) to never touch the leaves of the trees that helped Little Redbird. The telling adheres closely to the cadences and conventions of most classic folktales. Bold colors and the striking contrast of the red bird within a green tree are on full display, giving each page a true jolt of visual pop. Alas, this beauty is marred by the inexplicable choice to make the bird female. Only male cardinals are red, a fact completely ignored by this otherwise sweet tale.

Fables are fine, but why eschew facts? (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64170-158-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Familius

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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