There is no shortage of outstanding picture books that address children’s feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and joy....

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EVERYONE

Neal explores the well-trodden notion that everyone has feelings.

“Sometimes, you just need to cry, and that’s OK,” assures the text after a brief survey of feelings experienced by a white child with short, tousled black hair. This reassurance is paired with an illustration of the child’s blue tears turning into blue birds and winging their way across the gray sky. With the turn of the page, it then declares, “When you cry, you are not alone.” The child is now standing amid blue raindrops, smiling. Children will be forgiven for wondering, how is the child not alone? Are they to understand that the raindrops are the tears/birds? Neal is ambitious in his visual metaphors, but that doesn’t make them easy to understand. The illustrations, in a limited, retro palette that includes shades of black, peach, and blue, range from faux childlike cartoons to the sophisticated and fantastic. The plotless text has a tone-deaf “we are the world” vibe that’s a simplistic disconnect with the illustrations. Even as it acknowledges that “everyone has feelings, and that’s OK,” it mystifies with murky assertions such as, “when you sing… / everyone listens.” Unfortunately, it looks as though “everyone” is watching blue shooting stars.

There is no shortage of outstanding picture books that address children’s feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and joy. This is not one of them . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7683-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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