WHAT IS A CHILD? by Beatrice Alemagna


Age Range: 4 - 7
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A striking, illustrated musing on children and childhood.

On verso, white pages background large-print sentences that contemplate the nature of children, while on recto, mixed-media portraits of racially diverse children complement the text. The thoughtful, sophisticated art sometimes has a grotesque edge, ruling out as its audience those children who are still in the developmental stage that conflates fantasy and reality. Likewise, the text—both philosophical and whimsical—seems geared to adults and precocious children, as its beauty lies in hearing and pondering words rather than in following a story with a plot. For example: “The children who decide not to grow up will never grow up. They keep a mystery inside them. So that even as grown-ups they will be moved by little things: a ray of sunshine or a snowflake.” The reinforced idea that children need “kind eyes” is lovely but, again, more likely to be appreciated by adults than by the putative audience. While Alemagna’s A Lion in Paris (2014) will easily charm readers aged 3 to 93, this book’s more limited appeal will work for a young child sitting with a beloved, trusted relative—or as a gift for teachers, parents, and any adults who revel in the perceived innocence and wonder of children.

If this did not follow the familiar trajectory of a book read before bedtime, it would be tempting to pull it entirely out of the category of children’s picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-84976-412-4
Page count: 36pp
Publisher: Tate/Abrams
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016


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