Smells pretty good.

A mystery for young readers to sniff out.

When little Elliot awakens one morning, he smells something bad but can’t figure out what it is. He follows his nose around the house, sure he can find the malodorous source, but remains stumped. It’s not something under his bed, nor is it a skunk or something else outside. It’s neither his dad, his little sister, the baby, nor the dog—it’s not even Grandma’s mysterious Gefartzenschnaffer bubbling on the stovetop. Even as he searches, however, Elliot’s mother scolds him for wearing his Halloween costume for yet another day, which may prompt attentive readers to guess that Elliot himself is the mysterious, eponymous something that smells. Sure enough, when Elliot’s mother brings the costume to the wash, Henry illustrates a green stench wafting from it as she holds it out in front of her with just thumb and forefinger. Such details help the illustrations throughout the book match the clever, engaging text’s achievement. They adopt a style reminiscent of Barbara McClintock’s work, with ample crosshatching and deft use of watercolor and gouache. It’s a bit odd that an elder sibling appears in pictures but is never mentioned in text (not even as a possible source of stench), but apart from this misstep, the book is a cohesive whole. The family all presents white.

Smells pretty good. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8864-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018


If Black Lives Matter, they deserve more specificity than this.

A lushly illustrated picture book with a troubling message.

Little Lala walks with her father after his successful day of fishing. When Mama calls her home for bed, a host of “good night”s delays her: to the bird, the monkey, and even the rock. As Lala wanders through her village in the darkening twilight, readers appreciate its expansive beauty and Lala’s simple joys. Although it’s been artfully written and richly illustrated by an award-winning author of many multicultural stories, this book has problems that overshadow its beauty. “African veld” sets the story in southern Africa, but its vague locale encourages Americans to think that distinctions among African countries don’t matter. Lala wears braids or locks that stick straight up, recalling the 19th-century pickaninny, and her inconsistent skin color ranges from deep ebony like her father’s to light brown. Shadows may cause some of these differences, but if it weren’t for her identifiable hair, readers might wonder if the same child wanders from page to page. Perhaps most striking of all is Lala’s bedtime story: not an African tale but an American classic. While this might evoke nostalgia in some readers, it also suggests that southern Africa has no comparably great bedtime books for Lala, perhaps in part because American children’s literature dominates the world market.

If Black Lives Matter, they deserve more specificity than this. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17384-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016


A soothing, logical, and playful introduction to mindfulness for young listeners.

What can you do when things go wrong?

Two children contemplate different ways to calm themselves down in this straightforward introduction to breathing, relaxation, and mindfulness. The younger, White-presenting child follows suit when the older, brown-skinned child proposes imaginative calming techniques. They picture themselves as various animals (goldfish, elephants, dragons) and objects (pinwheels, dandelions, wind chimes, flowers), inhaling and exhaling, that make deep breathing and calming down concrete and easy to comprehend. Simplified, whimsical illustrations add a touch of humor and a wink to the 1970s while preventing the story from becoming cloying, as soft, gentle instructions help the characters (and listeners) to understand some of the mechanics behind how to intentionally breathe and decompress. While not necessarily something that children will pick up unless they are learning about practicing mindfulness, this informative title has charm and warmth and will give youngsters some ideas as to how to self-regulate and manage their feelings as they learn to be aware of their breathing. Endpapers feature a multiracial array of children’s faces expressing different emotions.

A soothing, logical, and playful introduction to mindfulness for young listeners. (author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77164-637-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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