Gorgeous artwork within a disappointing framing of disability.

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WOODPECKER GIRL

A physically disabled girl paints by using a brush attached to a headband.

This Taiwanese import ostensibly crafted by three creators—two authors, one illustrator, no translator—actually has four creators: Huang Yipei, the model for the protagonist, made paintings that Doll integrates into the illustrations. Doll’s breathtaking paintings, with Huang’s work seamlessly incorporated, shimmer with swaths of soft and rich colors, warm and harmonious. Angles are steep, scale dramatic—the protagonist is often miniscule. Canvas texture under the paint adds depth. On one spread, the protagonist sits in her wheelchair, half-hidden behind a door, at the faraway end of a stark path of light; a storm cloud unleashes rain onto her head while, in the foreground, un-rained-upon children play with a puppy. She can’t play with the puppy because her chair’s wheels “might roll onto him,” but why can’t someone lift him onto her lap? The text’s tragic view of disability—“All I can do is sit quietly”—shows some uplift with the introduction of assistive technology (a headband-brush to paint; a computer to speak), bringing the girl freedom and joy. But the text doesn’t let her do it for herself; even though she loves making art, it hurts, but she will do it to bring happiness to others. Her specific disability—cerebral palsy—goes unacknowledged until the backmatter, where notes from all three creators and Huang’s mother overcorrect the tragic viewpoint, framing Huang as an inspiration.

Gorgeous artwork within a disappointing framing of disability. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6954-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

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. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Cool beans indeed.

THE COOL BEAN

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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