Readers will be forgiven for wondering if a plant can replace companionship.

THE INVISIBLE BEAR

In this French import (translated into English by its author), a bear that feels invisible undergoes a transformation.

Debut author/illustrator Metzger opens the story with exterior and interior settings rendered in pale gray/green watercolor and ink, a choice reinforcing the lonely silence surrounding the large, white bear that feels forgotten, unseen. His presence is distinguished only by the rain cloud perpetually above his head. One morning, a cluster of rosy dragonflies flits into his orbit—followed by a truck packed with the green and pink cargo of Madame Odette. Double-page spreads of the elderly white woman’s home and greenhouse, as well as vignettes of her many activities, show that she “lived in a cheerful world of color and sound.” Initially annoyed, the bear learns to accommodate the changes and ultimately help his new neighbor by transporting his cloud to her wilting garden. Then his new friend is gone: “She loved her dragonflies so much that she flew away with them.” Whether this is meant to be literal or metaphorical is open to interpretation, but the bear finds a potted flower on his doorstep and realizes that he has been seen. While the two characters’ contrasting lives are well delineated, the gray lasts a bit too long, the bear’s predicament is never explained, and the conclusion in which the friend departs will be unsatisfying for many children.

Readers will be forgiven for wondering if a plant can replace companionship. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6687-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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