While Selznick trusts readers to draw their own conclusions about what is true, he offers rich companionship on the voyage.

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KALEIDOSCOPE

In his most complex work to date, Selznick examines the unique realities surrounding love and death.

Seeking knowledge of the world on his 13th birthday, the unnamed narrator sets sail with his friend James (both are assumed White). A storm carries them to the Moon, where James brilliantly defends the night and sleep in a battle with the Sun, because “without dreams, everything dies.” He is crowned king, and the protagonist wonders how he will live without him back on Earth. Twenty-three more chapters reveal dreamlike (nonlinear, often phantasmagorical) fragments of the boys’ relationship, before and after separation/death. Each is introduced by an exquisite, graphite illustration that is preceded by a symmetrical, kaleidoscopic version of the scene: These provide foreshadowing, focus, and an aura of spiritual mystery. Settings involving shattered glass or mysterious forest lights like “the entire world had turned into jewels” further the titular provocation. While the deftly constructed chapters could stand alone, the author plants images—biblical, mythological, scientific, Sendak-ian, and even David Bowie–esque—that shift and reappear: The last view of the apple, served by a dragon, leads the protagonist to ponder a (post-Edenic) life with answers but without wonder. Labyrinths, angels, clocks, butterflies, and clasped hands resurface, prompting contemplation of fear, solace, the fluidity of time, the thrill of connection. How do you find/feel love after death? How do you live with grief?

While Selznick trusts readers to draw their own conclusions about what is true, he offers rich companionship on the voyage. (author's note) (Fiction. 11-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-77724-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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An A+ for Little E and his creator.

LITTLE EXCAVATOR

A petite excavator named Little E finds his place among a crew of full-sized, heavy-construction equipment working together to build a park.

The anthropomorphic Little E, with bright, friendly eyes and a cheery smile, invites readers into the story on the large-format cover. He is followed by a brown-and-white–spotted dog, which appears throughout the story as a friend to Little E. The construction vehicles arrive at an abandoned lot and begin working together to transform the property into a park. The rollicking, rhyming text names each type of rig and its function, including lots of sound effects and action verbs set in display type integrated into the illustrations: “Pusha-pusha smusha-smusha SMASH SMASH SMASH!” Little E tries to help with each step, but he is either too small or not strong enough for the task at hand. The last step of the park-construction project is the planting of a tree on an island reached by a bridge, but all the big rigs are too large to safely cross the wooden bridge. In a pitch-perfect conclusion, Little E is just the right size for the job. Dewdney, the late author/illustrator of the Llama Llama series, has constructed a solid winner for one of her final books, with an appealing main character, vibrant illustrations with varying perspectives, and an action-packed, rhyming text with sound effects just begging to be read aloud with dramatic effect.

An A+ for Little E and his creator. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-99920-2

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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