A pro-clown missive that fails to entertain.

SON OF HAPPY

A boy decides to follow in his father’s comically large footsteps.

The unnamed white Jewish protagonist clearly doesn’t want to go to his friends’ parties. Mom forces him to, but the visiting entertainment at each of them, a classic red-nosed, white-faced, huge-pantsed clown who makes balloon animals, leaves him cold. When Happy the Clown asks him, “And what kind of animal do you want, young man?” he answers, “That’s okay, Dad.…I’ll pass.” The boy confesses to a friend that he doesn’t like clowns and wishes his father had a “regular” job, like being an accountant, but when the clowning business goes down and Dad goes back to being a lawyer, the boy starts to realize what he’s missing. This small-trim picture book has long blocks of text on most spreads, narrowing its read-aloud audience to patient lapsitters. But absence of controlled vocabulary keeps it off the early-reader shelf, nor is it an early chapter book. Some similarly uncategorizable stories can be made to work, but unfortunately this one suffers from an emotionally flat story with little to no tension or intrigue to keep readers of any level engaged. The loose gray and colored-pencil illustrations tonally match the story but don’t add excitement or depth to the pages.

(This book releases first as a digital edition, with print release currently scheduled for Aug. 4, 2020.)

A pro-clown missive that fails to entertain. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-178-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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