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POPPY'S COMBINE

Sensitive text is paired with uneven artwork in this picture book designed to help children cope with the loss of a grandparent.

Jake, a pre-school or kindergarten-aged tyke, loves visiting his grandfather, Poppy, on the farm. Farming is no longer a tradition in his family, and according to Jake’s mother, when Poppy is “gone,” the family farm will be, too. Jake doesn’t understand where Poppy might be going though his mother assures him that Poppy won’t be going anywhere for a long time. But the conversation is prophetic—that night, Jake’s mother receives the phone call that Poppy has died. As Jake’s mother explains, Jake imagines a heart attack as a violent conflict between a heart and weapons. He struggles to understand what it means that Poppy is dead, and his mother patiently attempts to offer words that will make sense. Jake watches the contrary behavior of the adults, who say that it is only Poppy’s body in the casket, but still speak to the burial plot to say farewell. Jake’s questions are true to a child’s perspective, and his mother’s answers are thoughtful; she offers him comfort without absolutes, always prefacing her explanations about what happens after death within the context of her beliefs and being unafraid to admit that she doesn’t have all the answers. The conclusion, where Jake and his mother imagine Poppy’s combine as a constellation, is touching. Meyerson, a reverend, handles the religious aspects lightly, while presenting them from a Christian perspective. Illustrator Searcy’s choice of style appears designed to appeal to young readers, but often the faces are unevenly depicted, making the images off-putting. However, her depictions of Jake’s imagined scenes, drawn in a childlike style rather than painted like the other images, are spot on, and her abstract backgrounds are lovely. The choice of a parchment style background behind the images and the use of a papyrus font are distracting, but ultimately blend into the story and images. Books that address grief are always in need, and Meyerson’s gentle words and child-centered perspective will provide comfort to young readers.  

 

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615567754

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Beth Meyerson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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TALES FOR VERY PICKY EATERS

Broccoli: No way is James going to eat broccoli. “It’s disgusting,” says James. Well then, James, says his father, let’s consider the alternatives: some wormy dirt, perhaps, some stinky socks, some pre-chewed gum? James reconsiders the broccoli, but—milk? “Blech,” says James. Right, says his father, who needs strong bones? You’ll be great at hide-and-seek, though not so great at baseball and kickball and even tickling the dog’s belly. James takes a mouthful. So it goes through lumpy oatmeal, mushroom lasagna and slimy eggs, with James’ father parrying his son’s every picky thrust. And it is fun, because the father’s retorts are so outlandish: the lasagna-making troll in the basement who will be sent back to the rat circus, there to endure the rodent’s vicious bites; the uneaten oatmeal that will grow and grow and probably devour the dog that the boy won’t be able to tickle any longer since his bones are so rubbery. Schneider’s watercolors catch the mood of gentle ribbing, the looks of bewilderment and surrender and the deadpanned malarkey. It all makes James’ father’s last urging—“I was just going to say that you might like them if you tried them”—wholly fresh and unexpected advice. (Early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-14956-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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