The slowly dawning message will elicit excitement about spring, wishing, and the ability to decode a narrative.

SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY

Bored with the familiar, this young daydreamer imagines how life could be different.

For starters, he’d liked to fly or have his drawings—in this case, a robot—come to life. The ideas become more creative as he continues; he would like it if “the rain came in seven different colors. And flavors!” His longings are depicted in watercolor-and-pencil compositions, rendered in a muted palette of browns and blue-greens. Ultimately, his puff of air on a dandelion carries the wish “that something would happen. / Something real!” In a quietly ironic twist, the boy notices a springtime scene (brighter, by subtle degrees) just across the gutter. The birds that had earlier accompanied him, chirping in small, musical speech bubbles, are seen tending their family in a branch of a tree. Organic pink and yellow shapes form the flowers that grace the cheery paradise. The protagonist’s earlier desire to talk to the animals is achieved as he bends toward a turtle and produces his own music bubble. In less-capable hands, the idea that the real is extraordinary (and by extrapolation, that enjoyment requires close observation) could have come across as clichéd and didactic. Instead, scenes full of gentle humor and inventive play convey respect and affection for the audience.

The slowly dawning message will elicit excitement about spring, wishing, and the ability to decode a narrative. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0358-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it.

THE OLD BOAT

A multigenerational tale of a boat’s life with a Black family, written by two brothers who loved similar boats.

In the opening spread, a smiling, brown-skinned adult dangles a line from the back of a green-and-white boat while a boy peers eagerly over the side at the sea life. The text never describes years passing, but each page turn reveals the boy’s aging, more urban development on the shore, increasing water pollution, marine-life changes (sea jellies abound on one page), and shifting water levels. Eventually, the boy, now a teenager, steers the boat, and as an adult, he fishes alone but must go farther and farther out to sea to make his catch. One day, the man loses his way, capsizes in a storm, and washes up on a small bay island, with the overturned, sunken boat just offshore. Now a “new sailor” cleans up the land and water with others’ help. The physical similarities between the shipwrecked sailor and the “new sailor” suggest that this is not a new person but one whose near-death experience has led to an epiphany that changes his relationship to water. As the decaying boat becomes a new marine habitat, the sailor teaches the next generation (a child with hair in two Afro puffs) to fish. Focusing primarily on the sea, the book’s earth-toned illustrations, created with hundreds of stamps, carry the compelling plot.

A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00517-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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