This surreal allegory of death’s release will intrigue some readers while puzzling others.

READ REVIEW

BON VOYAGE, MISTER RODRIGUEZ

Observed by village children, an elderly man prepares for death in this misty allegory.

Mr. Rodriguez appears outdoors at 4 p.m. daily, communing with a different animal each day: a dove on Monday, a pet fish on Tuesday, an old sheepdog on Wednesday, a lame cat on Thursday. On Friday, a piano appears on the street, and Mr. Rodriguez sits atop it as “a fine melody flowed out to sea.” Mr. Rodriguez levitates slightly above the cobbled streets along with the animals (and piano) he shepherds. On Saturday, Mr. Rodriguez fails to appear. The children rise early on Sunday to discover whether he’s changed his routine. Their curiosity is rewarded: The elder appears on his piano, floating in the air, the animals arrayed around him. “He winked and pointed to the clouds in the distance.” Duchesne adopts a first-person-plural narrative voice in which matter-of-fact declaratives bob against mild speculation and culminate in an unflappable conclusion: “He had gone away, probably forever. But we know he was happy.” Thisdale’s paintings depict a white-presenting Mr. Rodriguez and the coastal village’s mutable sky, cerulean sea, whitewashed buildings, and omnipresent lighthouse. He sometimes duplicates and flips his images of the village’s diverse children. With their precisely lit, unchanging or mirrored facial expressions, these recurring images convey, perhaps unintentionally, a robotic eeriness.

This surreal allegory of death’s release will intrigue some readers while puzzling others. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77278-089-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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