While most children will be able to relate to the raw frustration that Kaplan so effectively captures, it will take...

MEANIEHEAD

Henry and Eve, the constant complainers from Monsters Eat Whiny Children (2010), are going through a “new, terrible phase.”

The fight is on from the first page, and when the children simultaneously attempt to grab a favored action figure, the defeated one slings the titular moniker at her brother. Kaplan’s subsequent aside asserts the philosophy underpinning his plot: “There’s nothing sillier than fighting about what belongs to whom, but no kids and even fewer adults know that.” It’s an extensive rampage. The diminutive ink-and-watercolor caricatures contrast with sterile, white expanses interrupted by a decapitated doll here, a flattened Grand Canyon there, until all that remains is darkness. The pair’s eyes are unnervingly vacant; emotional intensity is achieved through dramatic mouth or brow lines and rage-purple cheeks. Despite an escalating vengeance that leads to nihilism, actions are contained within black frames. A temporary truce allows time for a snack. The penultimate scene shows two arms reaching for each other—a Michelangelo moment that mirrors the opening toy disaster but has a gentler outcome. (The endpapers, however, hint that the siblings have not completely reformed.)

While most children will be able to relate to the raw frustration that Kaplan so effectively captures, it will take sophisticated readers who are familiar with dark humor to enjoy this over-the-top fable about the consequences of unfettered will. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8542-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging.

ISLANDBORN

A young girl’s homework assignment unravels the history and beauty of her homeland.

Lola and her classmates are assigned to draw pictures of their respective origin countries. With excitement, the others begin sharing what they will draw: pyramids, a long canal, a mongoose. Lola, concerned, doesn’t remember what life was like on the Island, and so she recruits her whole neighborhood. There is Leticia, her cousin; Mrs. Bernard, who sells the crispy empanadas; Leticia’s brother Jhonathan, a barber; her mother; her abuela; and their gruff building superintendent. With every description, Lola learns something new: about the Island’s large bats, mangoes, colorful people, music and dancing everywhere, the beaches and sea life, and devastating hurricanes. Espinosa’s fine, vibrant illustrations dress the story in colorful cacophony and play with texture (hair especially) as Lola conjures images of her homeland. While the story does not identify the Island by name, readers familiar with Díaz’s repertoire will instantly identify it as the Dominican Republic, a conclusion that’s supported when the super recalls the Monster (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo), and sharp-eyed readers should look at the magnets on Lola’s refrigerator. Lola, Teresa Mlawer’s translation, is just as poignant as the original.

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2986-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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