A gentle tale well-suited for family-history and creative-writing units.

READ REVIEW

THE DRESS AND THE GIRL

Around the turn of the last century, a Greek village girl wears her beloved red dress as she goes about her daily life only to be separated from it when the family emigrates.

The child and her dress lead a seemingly idyllic, nature-filled life under blue skies, among whitewashed buildings, but they long for adventure. For unexplained reasons, the family boards a ship, where girl and dress play and go to school as before, details that subtly convey the length of the passage. Upon arrival at Ellis Island, the family is separated from the trunk in which the dress is now packed. The trunk, unclaimed, circles the globe in search of its rightful owners, eventually landing in a secondhand shop. Now grown, the girl spots her dress in the window and buys it for her own daughter. Morstad’s (House of Dreams, 2018, etc.) clean illustrations expertly evoke the era through a nostalgic color palette and the (unnamed) locations through carefully chosen details. The opening and closing spreads echo each other, reinforcing the theme of connection. Immigrant stories are perennially relevant, and the rarely seen 20th-century Greek setting is refreshing. However, the dress—while attributed human feelings—never generates enough emotion to create dramatic tension, and readers are not shown the impact on the family of starting a new life without most of their worldly possessions.

A gentle tale well-suited for family-history and creative-writing units. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3161-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here.

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THE COUCH POTATO

Can a couch potato peel themself off their beloved, comfortable couch?

John and Oswald’s titular spud certainly finds it very hard to do so. Why should they leave their “comfy, cozy couch” when everything that’s needed is within reach? Their doodads and gadgets to amuse and entertain, their couch’s extendable gloved hands to grab food from the kitchen, and screens upon screens to watch their favorite TV shows (highlights: MadYam, Fries), play their favorite video games, and livestream their friends. Where’s the need to leave the living room? Then…“PEW-WWWWWWW”! The electricity goes out one day. Left without screens and gizmos, the couch potato decides to take dog Tater “for a walk…outside,” where the trees and birds and skies seem rich, “like a high-resolution 156-inch curved screen, but even more realistic.” The outdoor experience proves cathartic and freeing, away from those cords that bind, liberating enough to commit this couch potato to spending more time off the couch. Similar to The Bad Seed (2017), The Good Egg (2019), and The Cool Bean (2019) in small-scale scope and moral learning, this latest guidebook to life retains John’s attention to textual goodness, balancing good-humored laughs with a sincere conversational tone that immediately pulls readers in. Naturally, Oswald’s succinct artwork—loaded with genial spuds, metatextual nods, and cool aloofness—continues this loose series’ winsome spirit. No counterarguments here, couch potatoes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 65.9% of actual size.)

Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295453-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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