A wonderful rethinking of the picture book as its own character. Wacky, zany, and downright fun.

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THE HAPPIEST BOOK EVER

Wanting to become the “happiest book ever,” a personified book enlists its friends’ help—but things go awry when a “frowny frog” doesn’t fit in, hilariously teaching the book (and readers) kindness and acceptance.

A benign happy face enthusiastically greets readers and asks them to help. With each spread, the cheery mood becomes more pronounced, the face more exuberant, and the author’s signature humor more in evidence. Cheerful, appealing characters blossom, cute and full of whimsy, many with labels that emphasize their silliness or absurdity. These minimalist images are perfectly juxtaposed to a photo of a dour-looking frog, whose seriousness pervades the book. Soon the once-upbeat face reveals an accusatory, even aggressive side, proving the ends don’t justify the means. But through its friends’ guidance, the book learns tolerance and understanding, allowing for true happiness and cheer. Shea masterfully uses a simple format to introduce a complicated idea: how to illustrate the subconscious thinking of a fictional character. On the right page is the face and its verbal self, represented by the text. On the left is the visual manifestation of its thoughts (with some spillover to the right). There are levels of sophistication to this well-designed artwork done in a primary four-color palette with white accents. The interactive components will have readers shaking and flipping—and most of all laughing—their ways through its pages.

A wonderful rethinking of the picture book as its own character. Wacky, zany, and downright fun. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3045-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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