From the Sparkella series , Vol. 1

A message delivered many times…but still true blue–ish.

The first day of school might not go too well, nor the second—but the third time’s the sparkly charm in actor Tatum’s picture-book debut.

Working a particularly effervescent variation on the well-trod “just be yourself” lesson, Barnes depicts young Ella (“You can call me Sparkella”) and their single dad positively exploding with stars and twinkles bursting from flamboyant garb and dancing along to school. But if Sparkella turns out to be a bit much for their new class, Day 2’s plainly dressed Ella just leaves the protagonist bored and lonely. There’s nothing for it but to share a little dance party that night with Dad (who had a hard day himself) and recite the pledge that the duo use to combat nervousness: “Close my eyes and know that everything I could need is already there inside of me.” The next day, Sparkella’s not the only child fizzing away in class and by lunchtime is trading half of an almond butter, jam, blueberry, and whipped cream sandwich for some of new friend Tam’s bánh mì. Sometimes, as the scintillant young narrator puts it, “all you can do is be more you-ish.” Sparkella and Dad are light-skinned, Tam is brown-skinned, and the class is racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A message delivered many times…but still true blue–ish. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-75075-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2022


From the Elephant & Piggie series

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014


Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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