An original and thought-provoking exploration of the rhythms of friendship.

A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD

It is common to associate cages with imprisonment, but what of the cage’s point of view?

The book’s title is an aphorism attributed to Franz Kafka; it clearly stimulated a flight of fancy in Fagan. He banishes his subject to an attic corner where it feels “useless and unwanted.” Despite admonishments from the suitcase and guitar, the cage maneuvers itself to the window and jumps. Decorated with heart-shaped scrollwork, this wrought-iron home longs for an inhabitant. It strikes up conversations with all the birds that happen by, from a hummingbird to an owl, trying to persuade them of the merits of caged life. Blues and oranges dominate Erfanian’s vibrant illustrations. The flowers that grace the rolling hills and the texture applied to the wooded backgrounds create a cozy tapestry effect further enhanced by the soft edges produced by the acrylic and oil pastels. Each wild creature rejects the cage’s logic, and after a lonely night, there is a discernable difference in its approach to the frightened bird that lands nearby. The cage listens to the pet’s tale of abandonment without pressure, simply keeping it company. Ultimately, an invitation is extended: “Do not worry anymore. Hop inside where it is warm and safe. For I have come to save you. And you have come to save me.”

An original and thought-provoking exploration of the rhythms of friendship. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498-861-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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