Too dense and erratic for children, and too adolescent for adults.

THE VERY LITTLEST DRAGON

Charlton’s debut is a fanciful tale of dragons, picture framing and princesses.

The novel begins promisingly: dragon parents, both employed at a framing shop run by a grizzly bear, await the hatching of their first clutch of eggs. Boomer, the first hatchling to emerge, flies faster than the speed of sound, while second-born Tink is so tiny that he fits in a coffee cup—one of the places he feels safest. Among the novel’s assets are utterly charming illustrations by Laura Reynolds and some lovely insights skillfully expressed (“seen from high altitude across large flat oceans and vast deserts, it is easy to understand why dawn is called a ‘crack,’ for it certainly splits the dark in two”). But the novel has two insurmountable weaknesses: The plot is thin to begin with (late in the story, for reasons not entirely clear, Tink faces a vague challenge friends and family help him prepare for) and the story is too cluttered for the novel to have the necessary dramatic tension. An overabundance of superfluous characters (including one who speaks in misspelled French, saying not mon dieu, but mon due or mon deu) appear only once or twice; although occasionally charming, they stall the story and make it difficult to remember the main characters. Long accounts of meals and the foods and beverages consumed at them (fish balls with various sauces, biscuits, chocolate, lots of coffee) grow tedious due to their frequency, length and ultimate irrelevance. Most damaging, the novel’s climax is repeatedly interrupted with cuts to quiet conversations and domestic scenes short on tension, fizzling away the power of Tink’s struggle and triumph. It’s a pity, because if focused, sharpened and streamlined, this could be a tight page turner sure to delight the young readers who should be its primary audience.

Too dense and erratic for children, and too adolescent for adults.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984966608

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more