SILLY BILLY

Very few artists understand a child’s anxieties as deeply—or represent them so thoroughly—as Browne. Here, he presents Billy, who worries about “many things”: hats, shoes, clouds, rain and giant birds, until his grandmother gives him some Guatemalan worry dolls to do the work for him. All is well for a few nights, but then he starts to worry about the dolls’ worries—so he makes more dolls for all of them. This master of surrealism pictures Billy against his trademark wallpaper (which changes subtly with each separate worry) in mono-tinted compositions that trap him in bed, at the mercy of his fears. The highly saturated colors of Guatemalan weaving surround these disturbing images, insulating readers from their full impact and anticipating the eventual relief. Billy himself is human (though he wears a familiar vest), his round face and big ears only vaguely chimp-like; the adults in his life are reassuringly soft and bulky. It’s a sweet acknowledgement that all kids have fears that plague them, and puts a wonderfully childlike solution at their disposal. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7636-3124-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced.

BIRD HUGS

Watch out, Hug Machine (Scott Campbell, 2014), there’s another long-limbed lover of squeezes in the mix.

Bernard, a tiny, lavender bird, dejectedly sits atop a high branch. His wings droop all the way to the ground. Heaving a sigh, his disappointment is palpable. With insufferably long wings, he has never been able to fly. All of his friends easily took to the skies, leaving him behind. There is nothing left to do but sit in his tree and feel sorry for himself. Adamson amusingly shows readers the passage of time with a sequence of vignettes of Bernard sitting in the rain, the dark, and amid a cloud of paper wasps—never moving from his branch. Then one day he hears a sob and finds a tearful orangutan. Without even thinking, Bernard wraps his long wings around the great ape. The orangutan is comforted! Bernard has finally found the best use of his wings. In gentle watercolor and pencil sketches, Adamson slips in many moments of humor. Animals come from all over to tell Bernard their troubles (a lion muses that it is “lonely at the top of the food chain” while a bat worries about missing out on fun during the day). Three vertical spreads that necessitate a 90-degree rotation add to the fun.

Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9271-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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