A bit of a bust in English, but if nothing else, Spanish-literate readers will get an evocative take on two fish and their...

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THE AMAZING WATERCOLOR FISH / EL ASOMBROSO PEZ ACUARELA

Two fish in separate bowls find a way to communicate across a chasm in a rhyming, bilingual picture book.

A lonely fish depicted in a black-and-white fishbowl that contains only sand, a watercolor palette, and brush wonders what exists outside that tiny world. When another fish, in a matching bowl on the other side of a few books, appears to reach out, the first is inspired to paint what’s in her imagination. Her world—and the illustrations—go rainbow-fantasy, with scene after scene of whimsy rendered in brilliant hues. The two fish, joined only in their dreams, learn that “The world is more than just two fish!” It’s a lovely, mind-expanding idea for young readers, and the shift from black and white to color is a clever conceit. But the change comes 16 pages into a 32-page book, and in the time it takes to get there, the visuals feel flat and undernourished. More problematic is that Tafolla’s Spanish translation, which accompanies each passage of English, tends to outshine its lead-in. Bilingual readers will notice that the rhymes are not direct translations; in order to make them work in each language, different imagery and turns of phrases are used, and the English just doesn’t match up, either in terms of the quality of the writing or the imagery it conveys.

A bit of a bust in English, but if nothing else, Spanish-literate readers will get an evocative take on two fish and their shared vision of a world they’ll never see . (Bilingual picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55885-873-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite.

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AFTER THE FALL (HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN)

Humpty Dumpty, classically portrayed as an egg, recounts what happened after he fell off the wall in Santat’s latest.

An avid ornithophile, Humpty had loved being atop a high wall to be close to the birds, but after his fall and reassembly by the king’s men, high places—even his lofted bed—become intolerable. As he puts it, “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Although fear bars Humpty from many of his passions, it is the birds he misses the most, and he painstakingly builds (after several papercut-punctuated attempts) a beautiful paper plane to fly among them. But when the plane lands on the very wall Humpty has so doggedly been avoiding, he faces the choice of continuing to follow his fear or to break free of it, which he does, going from cracked egg to powerful flight in a sequence of stunning spreads. Santat applies his considerable talent for intertwining visual and textual, whimsy and gravity to his consideration of trauma and the oft-overlooked importance of self-determined recovery. While this newest addition to Santat’s successes will inevitably (and deservedly) be lauded, younger readers may not notice the de-emphasis of an equally important part of recovery: that it is not compulsory—it is OK not to be OK.

A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-682-6

Page Count: 45

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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