Baffling

READ REVIEW

HAVE YOU SEEN MR. ROBINSON?

A solitary bookworm makes a friend.

Anna’s a reader. She “doesn’t have any ‘real’ friends,” the book explains alongside art that depicts her standing in line at the bus stop, nose in a book, and then by herself, still reading, at a classroom table as her classmates play all around her. “But she doesn’t mind, because she has many friends in her books,” it goes on, depicting her sitting on a unicorn and surrounded by characters both familiar (Little Red Riding Hood, a lute-bearing nymph, some animals) and less so. Among the latter are William Shakespeare, whom adults may recognize but children are unlikely to; a robed white man who leans on a globe (René Descartes??); and a gray-haired, Asian-presenting cellist who is probably not Yo-Yo Ma. Children must shake off this obscurity to proceed. Anna’s librarian grandfather sends her into the park to play. This does not go well until a boy named Jeff approaches her with the titular question. Mr. Robinson is his lost cat. “He’s big, fluffy, and cute.” The two kids proceed through town, climbing a tower from which Anna spots the cat, who “is not as cute as Anna had imagined.” And that’s pretty much it. Exactly what Huang is getting at in this story is unclear beyond a general feeling that it’s good for children to vary reading with interaction with other kids. Both Anna and Jeff present white.

Baffling . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-081-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series.

THE POLAR BEAR WISH

Anja and her dog, Birki, do their best to get to a Christmas party in a frozen Nordic landscape.

Anja wishes she had a dog sled to harness Birki to in order to get to the party. The next morning, her cousin Erik appears with his dog sled and an offer to take her there. Lost in a blizzard, they encounter talking wolves who take them to a tent where they can spend the night. A baby polar bear named Tiny appears, separated from his mother. The following day takes them all on an adventure through glaciers and fjords, past an ice castle, and finally to Tiny’s mother and to the party. This digitally produced book is illustrated with photographs that capture the Nordic setting. Unfortunately, the overall effect is weirdly flat, with elements awkwardly set together in images that lack depth. A polar bear perches awkwardly on top of oddly scaled pack ice; Anja and Erik spend a night in the ice castle in niches chiseled into the wall, but they seem oddly disconnected from it. The book has an old-fashioned, European feel; the white, blond children’s red caps and traditional clothing stand out against the dim, bluish winter light. But the wooden, overlong text does little to cultivate the magical fantasy feeling that it’s aiming for.

For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6566-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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