A sweet reminder to slow down and notice the world around us.

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WHAT JOHN MARCO SAW

While all the older people around him are lost in their own worlds, little John Marco notices all the small—and big—things around him.

John Marco’s siblings are older and louder than he is. They are interested in money, music, sports, and their smartphones but not in the things John Marco is interested in. Mr. Jordy, his neighbor, likes to sit on his porch and read the newspaper and whistle. But he too does not pay attention to John Marco. Even John Marco’s mother is engrossed in the world of self-help books and finances and “doing four things at once.” So when John Marco sees a grasshopper in the yard, or digs a hole and finds a bunch of worms and a rock with a white line on it, or spots a fat orange cat in the yard, nobody listens when he tries to tell them about it. It is only when he notices something really big that he finally gets their attention—though he does have to yell, “The tree in the front yard is falling down!” before this happens. The cartoon illustrations playfully convey information that goes beyond the text and cleverly zoom in when John Marco is contemplating the small things, thus amplifying his world. The family is depicted with black hair and olive skin; Mr. Jordy is black.

A sweet reminder to slow down and notice the world around us. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6336-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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