SNOWMEN AT NIGHT

The work of this husband-and-wife team best known for The Escape of Marvin the Ape (1992) is always special; here it comes together in a delightful story about the nocturnal activities of snowmen that is refreshingly original and visually sparkling. Author Buehner imagines why snowmen may not look the same as they had the day before. While children sleep, their snowy creations gather for winter fun that includes ice-skating on a pond, hilltop sledding, and an enthusiastic snowball fight. The illustrative Buehner uses oil paints over acrylics to bring this idea to dazzling life. Primary colors delicately form the winter wonderland where the secret, active life of these frozen friends is grinningly revealed. A palette of blues and yellows painted against one another create depth and shadow while illuminating the night and casting a moonlit glow on the scenery. Perhaps the use of color to create light will assist young readers in their search for images of Santa Claus faces, rabbits, and dinosaurs that are hidden in the scenes. It would be difficult not to fall in love with this rollicking flight of imagination created by a terrific combination of talent. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8037-2550-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Contemplative children will spend hours on each page, noticing such subtleties as reappearing animals and the slowly rising...

FLASHLIGHT

A wordless picture book both soothing and gently humorous.

The cover displays the template that will appear throughout: black pages with stylized, silvery, moonlit flora and fauna, except where the flashlight’s glow shows the colors of objects as they appear in full-spectrum light. That triangular beam will reveal such things as a beaver in a pond, bats in the sky, mice munching on apples and a set of colorful Tibetan prayer flags suspended between two woodland trees. Although rendered in gouache, the art resembles a scratch painting, with myriad tiny plants and animals inscribed into the black background, starting with captivating endpapers. On the title page, an androgynous child in a tent lies propped on elbows, reading a book by flashlight. Because there is no text, the sets of double-page spreads that follow initially leave room for interpretation as to whether one child or two are next seen happily perusing the night woods, flashlight in hand. No matter; the important elements are the amazing details in the art, the funny twist at the end and the ability of the author-illustrator to create a dark night world utterly devoid of threat.

Contemplative children will spend hours on each page, noticing such subtleties as reappearing animals and the slowly rising moon over the course of one night in the forest. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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