A poignant exploration of depression, grief, and friendship.

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MAYBE TOMORROW?

Cheerful green alligator Norris attempts to befriend Elba, a pink hippo burdened by a mysterious black block.

Norris may initially appear to be a suspiciously friendly predator, but, as evidenced by the cloud of butterflies that accompanies him everywhere, he is genuinely considerate. He finds Elba sitting on her block in the park and invites her on a picnic, then continues to check in with her after she declines. Elba is surprised when Norris joins her in sitting on her block, telling her he feels “something [sad] in there” and that “it wants to come out.” “Maybe tomorrow,” he says after they sit in silence each day. With Norris’ patient encouragement—observe his hopeful smile as they drink tea in the rain!—Elba soon agrees to visit the ocean with him, though she doubts she can make it that far with her block: “It’s too heavy….Right?” she asks, which he does not deny, instead responding, “My butterflies and I will help you.” As they slowly walk to the ocean, Elba finally opens up to Norris about the deep sadness her block represents. His empathetic response and its surprising result demonstrate the power of patience, listening, and simply showing up when loved ones are navigating difficult emotions. Ramírez’s illustrations, done in a combination of traditional and digital media, utilize bright, textured colors, simple rounded shapes, and subtle yet eloquent facial expressions to sweetly emphasize the characters’ emotional journey.

A poignant exploration of depression, grief, and friendship. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-21488-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The book is available in just about every format--but this is the perfect one.

GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU

POP-UP

It's hard to believe that a pop-up wasn't the creators' original intention, so seamlessly do moveable parts dovetail into this modern classic's storyline.

In contrast to the tale's 1998 pop -up version, the figures here move on every page, and with an unusually graceful naturalism to boot. From pulling down Big Nutbrown Hare's ears on the opening spread to make sure he's listening to drowsily turning his head to accept a final good-night kiss in a multi-leveled pull-down tableau at the close, all of Little Nutbrown Hare's hops, stretches and small gestures serve the poetically spare text—as do Big Nutbrown's wider, higher responses to his charge's challenges. As readers turn a flap to read Big Nutbrown's "But I love you this much," his arms extend to demonstrate. The emotional connection between the two hares is clearer than ever in Jeram's peaceful, restrained outdoor scenes, which are slightly larger than those in the trade edition, and the closing scene is made even more intimate by hiding the closing line ("I love you right up to the moon—and back") until an inconspicuous flap is opened up.  

The book is available in just about every format--but this is the perfect one. (Pop-up picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5378-1

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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