BOOK OF BIG BROTHERS

Growing up with two older brothers is never boring. The youngest of three looks back over his childhood, beginning with Mom bringing him home from the hospital (a story that he doesn't remember but has often been told). His brothers are so anxious to hold him that he's accidentally dropped...and smiles. This sets the tone for his whole life. Whether it's entertaining him with a pirate play when he's sick in bed with the measles, burying a dead pet together or camping out in the backyard, his big brothers are there for him. And now that he's older, the three don't live in the same house but still manage to get together occasionally—and to dream. It's a lovely story of brotherhood, told with heart and simplicity and plenty of specific details to give them weight. Melanson's digital illustrations are stylishly childlike, although they are sometimes too young and/or too literal for the substantial text. This flaw is a small one, however, given the unusual and touching nature of the whole. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-88899-977-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Too mean-spirited to be really funny.

THE PET PARADE

From the Dear Beast series , Vol. 2

The drama behind an upcoming pet parade, told in epistolary style.

Simon, Andy’s cat, is writing to Baxter, Andy’s dog. Simon invites Baxter to march in the upcoming pet parade, taking Simon’s place. Baxter replies affirmatively with wriggly enthusiasm and atrocious spelling. When Simon asks Baxter what his costume will be and reminds him to be more attentive to his spelling, Baxter writes back that the costume is a secret, that “speling is…not vary fun,” and that he has given Simon the nickname of Cat Man. Simon says he doesn’t want a nickname, but Baxter persists, insensitively. While Simon is unfailingly polite in his epistolary quest to find out what Baxter’s costume is, readers may detect in the responses he receives that he is not altogether an innocent party. Nevertheless, many of those responses are noticeably ungracious. And Baxter, with his willful dismissal of Simon’s feelings, adds to the story’s pervasively subtle mean-spiritedness. Backmatter gives a “Doggie Dictionary” that translates Baxter’s ubiquitous misspellings into proper words, but as a device, his habit is more intrusive than cute, often forcing readers who are trying to master spelling themselves to sound out what should be sight words to glean meaning. Andy is White, as is his chief competitor, and his friend Noah is a child of color. Atteberry renders expressions well, but the goldfish with the big red lips and long eyelashes is tiresomely stereotypical, as is the apparently elderly snail delivering the letters.

Too mean-spirited to be really funny. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4493-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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