A good idea philosophically and artistically—but tanked by weak execution.

READ REVIEW

THINGS THAT GO AWAY

An exploration of things that are temporary.

“In life, / many things go away. / They transform, / they pass by.” Each double-page spread holds a special sheet, attached in the gutter, that’s halfway between transparent and translucent. This sheet overlays first the right-hand page, then the left; it features black markings (different on every spread) that shift meaning as it turns. In one fine example, to demonstrate that “sleep always departs,” heavily drawn, closed eyelids move from overlaying a child’s face to a stuffed animal’s. Unfortunately, many spreads are less successful. All the primary illustrations pale significantly when viewed through the middle sheet while the sheet’s black drawings are particularly bold; consequently, flipping the sheet leftward often fails to hide or repurpose the black marks. Musical notes seemingly meant to disappear into a plant (“Music flies away”) are so dark—and the underlying illustration so paled by the flip-over sheet—that the notes don’t visually integrate into the plant but hover nonsensically. Tears drop from a child’s eyes, but instead of blending into a cat’s fur when the sheet flips, they sit confusingly overlaid on the cat. The conceit’s weak implementation leaves little room for attention to Alemagna’s heavy oil paintings with faces styled like children’s art, nor to the otherwise lovely catalog of things that are (or can be) fleeting: injury, bubbles, bad moods, hair placement, steam from a teacup.

A good idea philosophically and artistically—but tanked by weak execution. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4482-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more