Gorgeous artwork within a disappointing framing of disability.

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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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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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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