A delicate, unnerving meditation.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL STORY

A girl flies through the night sky to bring her dead brother back to life.

“Who is that running in the middle of the night? / Oh, it’s Vera.” Vera steps out a window, eyes closed, into the snow. She glides forward, airborne, ethereal in her “light and billowy” nightgown. Her long hair flows out behind her, ensnaring a boy in pajamas from a tree branch. His eyes, like Vera’s, are closed. Vera’s hair, still flowing behind her, cradles and carries him as they fly through landscapes of folklore and ghouls. Torseter’s fine-lined drawings are loose-handed, minimalist, and eerie. Tree roots in underground caves reach out; skeletons nestle; trees wail. Readers learn, obliquely, that this is a ritual that is reenacted repeatedly. When Vera and the boy, Salander, reach the lake this time, a huge woman rises out of the water, and Vera asks her to “tell…the most beautiful story.…The one where there is so much pain, but everything is fine in the end.” Telling it, the woman brings Salander back to life. Vera can hear his heart now, and as she carries him home in her arms, “she feels his warm breath on her cheek.” His eyes never open, though, and he looks just as asleep as he’s looked all along. Readers learn almost nothing about how Salander died, only that he did die and that Vera pines for him to have been saved. Title notwithstanding, Tjønn’s piece about processing grief is mournful, closureless, and unsettling—like fresh bereavement itself. Characters have straight hair and skin the white of the page.

A delicate, unnerving meditation. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59270-350-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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