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

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/Arte 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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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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