Readers will surely want to join this sweet family.

THE RAMBLE SHAMBLE CHILDREN

Five children live a shabby but idyllic life on their own, caring for their home, their garden, and one another.

Merra, Locky, Roozle, Finn, and Jory, children of varying sizes and skin tones, all charmingly illustrated in Castillo’s signature style, live by themselves in a colorful “ramble shamble house.” Each has their own responsibilities: Merra, the oldest, who presents Black, tends the garden and tells bedtime stories. Others take care of chickens, shoo blackbirds, and pull carrots. Jory, the baby, sits on the ground in his onesie pajamas and, adorably, “look[s] after the mud.” (His pale face is smudged with it.) One day, however, they discover a picture of a “proper” house in a book. It doesn’t look like theirs at all. So they set out to “proper up” their home, replacing the carrot patch with roses, creating a fancy henhouse, fashioning a chandelier out of stinkbugs, and raking over the mud puddles. The result is a home that certainly looks more proper, but nothing works smoothly. And worst of all, what’s happened to Jory? Soontornvat’s complete lack of exposition, with no explanation of how five diverse children came to live this way, lends the story a classic, old-time–y feel that allows readers to focus on more important things: what it means to contribute to the well-being of others, what makes a family, and what love looks like. Hint: It doesn’t look like diamond chandeliers. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 64.5% of actual size.)

Readers will surely want to join this sweet family. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17632-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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DONOVAN'S BIG DAY

It may be his mothers’ wedding day, but it’s Donovan’s big day in Newman’s (Heather Has Two Mommies, 1989, etc.) latest picture book about queer family life. Centered on the child’s experience and refreshingly eschewing reference to controversy, the book emerges as a celebration of not only Mommy’s and Mama’s mutual love but progress toward equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Readers, however, don't know immediately know why it is “a very BIG day” for Donovan or what the “very BIG job” is that he has to do. In his affectionate, humorous gouache paintings with digital finish, Dutton cleverly includes clues in the form of family pictures in an earlier spread set inside their home, and then a later spread shows Donovan in a suit and placing a “little white satin box that Aunt Jennifer gave him” into his pocket, hinting toward his role as ring bearer. But it’s not until the third-to-last spread that he stands with his parents and hands “one shiny gold ring to Mommy [and] one shiny gold ring to Mama.” He, of course, gets to kiss the brides on the last page, lending a happily-ever-after sensibility to the end of this story about a family's new beginning. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-332-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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