An intriguing picture book with an abstract theme and illustrations that invite young readers to reimagine themselves as...

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SPACE CREATURES

A boy describes his identity as an Earthling in this clever, enchantingly illustrated picture book by veteran author Weisberg (Talking to the Dead, 2005, etc.) and artist Arnold.

Most people think of the unnamed narrator as a boy and his sister as a girl, “But we’re Earthlings,” he explains. Grouping himself with other residents of the planet—animals as well as humans—the narrator describes things that make Earth and Earthlings special. Scientific concepts such as gravity, the atmosphere, the water cycle, and general human anatomy are described in dramatically simplified layman’s terms. Rather than delve into the science, the narrator skims over the ideas to focus on how some of these things are unique to Earth and how earthlings are “perfectly made” for their environments. The theme underlying the concepts is a little more abstract: “I can’t see my own back or face without a mirror, but I can see those of other Earthlings….We can see one another, but we can’t directly see our whole selves.” Although never stated directly, the philosophical implication that other beings are required for us to truly see ourselves is an interesting one for a picture book aimed at the lower grade school audience. While most of the illustrations focus on the narrator—a small blond boy wearing primary colors—in the final pages, a diverse spread of humans fill the pages, featuring different skin tones, clothing styles, and religious and cultural details, further suggesting that seeing ourselves through diverse eyes helps us better understand who we are; after all, our shared planet is more important than our differences. Arnold’s watercolor images are delightful, with nods to space travel and sci-fi at every opportunity (robot toys and rocket ships are typical inclusions). But the premise is almost too clever: since there’s no story here, only abstract concepts, some young readers may scratch their heads. “He’s an Earthling—so what?” It is not quite detailed enough to please science readers nor direct enough to give an explicit moral. But the quiet, thoughtful tone may well work for others, especially independent readers more interested in questions than answers.

An intriguing picture book with an abstract theme and illustrations that invite young readers to reimagine themselves as citizens of the planet.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1500941215

Page Count: 42

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

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Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.

THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK

From the There’s a…in Your Book series

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Jabari succeeds, and so does this book.

JABARI TRIES

Jabari works hard to build a gizmo that flies, but his best modification may be inspired by his partner.

When Jabari announces his machine will fly “all the way across” their spacious, landscaped yard, he is certain he won’t need any help. While his father gardens and his younger sister plays, Jabari builds a launch ramp, sends his machine through, and…crash! Little Nika wants in on the fun, but Jabari is “concentrating.” He takes inspiration from inventors and engineers, who use creativity and hard work to solve their problems. He plans, sketches, builds, and tries and tries again. He lets Nika help out, reluctantly at first, and when he gets so frustrated he wants to cry, he takes his father’s advice: gathering his patience and blowing away his “muddy feelings.” When he tries once more, with a clear head and support from his pint-sized partner, he discovers a change that makes his machine—and his confidence—soar. This generously sized picture book offers a lovely picture of mentorship and healthy relationships in the context of a thriving Black family with dark skin tones. Jabari’s emotional ups and downs will be familiar to young children, and his hard-won success feels triumphant. Cornwall’s clean, clear illustrations use patterns, green hues, and white space to deliver a variety of effective scenes.

Jabari succeeds, and so does this book. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0716-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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