An ever-timely message, told in (two) primary colors.



What does it say that the nature and quality of our national political debate should be so baldly captured in a book for 4-year-olds?       

Newcomer Clanton's candidates are a donkey and an elephant, economically if emotively drawn on fields of blue and red. Yes, we know who these characters are, even more so when they start to address the reader, aka the potential voter. First come the soft sell, the loopy promises and idle boasts—"Do you like CANDY?" "I'm a SUPER CUTE elephant!"—then come the ad hominem attacks: "Well, you certainly do, you big, STINKY pooper scooper," or, drawing from Spiro Agnew's playbook, "belching beast of burden." Finally, they sling enough mud that the electorate takes its business elsewhere. It is a painful point well made, that these candidates are laughable when not plain embarrassing. But even if the name-calling has a measure of low humor at first, it soon pales—something that Clanton's book threatens to do before its neat twist—in direct proportion to its sustenance on either the entertainment or intellectual front, as any 4-year-old will tell you. Read it with Eileen Christelow's splendid Vote! (2003) if you want that 4-year-old to actually learn anything, though.

An ever-timely message, told in (two) primary colors. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55453-822-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Thanks, but no thanks.


A little girl learns that being grateful is key to being “a happy camper.”

The opening text shifts awkwardly from present to past tense as the narrator, Kiko, shares that she’s excited and nervous about an upcoming overnight school camping trip. The book’s focus is on Kiko’s shifting feelings about the trip, which she ends up enjoying, in large part because she takes the time to feel grateful for small moments while she also absorbs others’ gratitude and thereby feels appreciated. Unfortunately, while Lyles’ illustrations are warm and inviting, the text is far from accessible and engaging. A character named Jasmine is introduced by name on an early spread, but it’s uncertain who she is, as Kiko’s parents tell their daughter that “this trip is for you, Jasmine, and all your classmates and Ms. Cooper.” Is Jasmine a classmate? This isn’t clarified until her third mention several spreads later. Later, a massive text block set against a cloud of steam rising from a cooking pot at the campsite defines what grateful means. This didactic, wordy moment seems downright concise compared to the three-page “reader’s note” at the book’s end. Kiko’s name and physical appearance suggest that she’s of Asian descent, but her parents are white-appearing.

Thanks, but no thanks. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4338-2903-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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The book has its heart in the right place, but its mind is too clearly focused on adult agendas and preoccupations.


Barnes’ earnest, rather oblique text interrogating the use of colors as labels for people is at odds with its playful, naive collage art. 

The clunky opening line reads, “I’m just a kid coloring the world in the pictures I drew. I look in my crayon box to see which one I’d be…I wonder if kids are colors too,” propelling readers into a lengthy rumination on whether elements of the natural world “see” a child as a color. “Am I a color to the sky? Am I a color in my dreams? Am I a color to the moon? Am I a color to the sea?” The ideological slant declares color an inadequate and limiting description or category for a human being. While a laudable message, it seems a rather abstract one for the intended child audience, though Nelson’s accompanying, playful and, yes, colorful, collage illustrations seem much more in tune with young children’s sensibilities. This title doesn’t measure up to other more developmentally appropriate titles prompting discussion about race, ethnicity and diversity. Let's Talk about Race, by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour (2005), and The Skin You Live in, by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko (2005), are just two of these.

The book has its heart in the right place, but its mind is too clearly focused on adult agendas and preoccupations. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-541-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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