Conversations about motivations and actions will abound as children absorb the impact of grace.

NIGHT SHADOWS

Nocturnal shadows are what fall on an old woman’s garage wall as kids repeatedly spray it with graffiti.

On the first evening, Mrs. Lucy’s body also casts an imposing shadow in her doorway’s yellow light as the children escape into the blue darkness. The dramatic, diagonal figure recalls Young’s rendering of the mother catching her son in DaCosta’s Nighttime Ninja (2012). The next day, a group of boys—silhouetted as a unit—exiles a younger sister as they prepare to play baseball. Tasha encounters Mrs. Lucy painting over the words (which readers never see). The girl offers to help on this day and the next, milk and cookies are her compensation. Skin tone is created with brown paper. The woman’s sumptuous robe is fashioned from crinkled gold paper, overlaid with soft blue and lacy green fibers; the girl’s shirt is a marbleized magenta and blue pattern. On the third night, the victim hides in the lilac bushes and is shocked that this time the sole vandal is Tasha. Her plaintive explanation: “I just—I just wanted to come over again.” Speechless, the woman allows compassion to prevail, promising they have a lot of work to do—together. The rich, restrained text and visually exciting collages build suspense and surprise in tandem. Readers will turn back, now detecting subtle clues. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 64.9% of actual size.)

Conversations about motivations and actions will abound as children absorb the impact of grace. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64421-024-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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