A lovely, reassuring tale for children set during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ REVIEW

THE SAFE RETURN

A little girl and her friends—following Covid-19 safety protocols—take an exhilarating bike ride in this picture book.

On a windy autumn day, with Dad jogging behind, a girl rides her balance bike—“Feet on pavement. / Tush in seat. / Kick, balance, roll.”—meeting friends whom she hasn’t seen “in FOREVER,” she says. The reason for that is clear from the masks the girl and her friends are wearing and the safe distance they maintain from one another. These Covid-19 concerns don’t interfere with their fun, and that’s the point in this gently affirming tale. The story shows that masks, like the helmet each child wears while biking, are no big deal, just a simple, everyday thing worn for protection. Wheelock and Evans, who collaborated on their first children’s book, We Toot! (2019), impart this message in a loose, free-verse style, capturing the high spirits of kids at play. Swartz’s watercolor illustrations—softly hued and evocative of breezy outdoor fun—depict the kids, each wearing a differently patterned mask, as a diverse group with varied skin tones and hair colors. Speeding down a steep hill ends with the girl’s spill and tears, but Dad is there. Besides, it’s more important, she notes, to help a little boy find the toy bunny he lost during the ride. The story then repeats with one change: The characters no longer wear masks, an unspoken pledge that one day they will no longer be necessary.

A lovely, reassuring tale for children set during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73313-745-4

Page Count: 54

Publisher: House of Tomorrow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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