When read with a TV-announcer voice, the exaggerated mayhem of text and illustration could make for a kooky KO at storytime.

RUSSELL WRESTLES THE RELATIVES

Mushy family reunions? With Russell’s family they’re more mashy than anything else.

Russell is a scrawny kid, and with only one day left before the family reunion, he has yet to devise a plan to escape the tickles, hair-tousles, handshakes, and hugs. His family members are pro wrestlers, so get-togethers can get physical fast. Hiding doesn’t get him past the opening doorbell. First his twin cousins “tag-team him with back-to-back Backbusters.” Then his uncle “Iron Arm” Murphy grabs his hand for an Earthquake Shake. When his cousin “Cora, The Cleaner” grabs him for a Spin Cycle hug, Russell slips out of her hold. After another smooth escape, Russell suddenly has the moves and the confidence to thwart all attempts at hugging—but can he block Grammy Dorothy’s trademark Kansas Crusher hug? Johnson’s jokey juxtaposition of family togetherness and pro-wrestling silliness will strike both a chord and a funny bone for little listeners. Duncan’s scratchy, colorful, digitally created, cartoon illustrations are full of goofy action and outrageous costumes. Russell and his mom are white, but skin tones and wrestler nicknames hint at a multiethnic extended family for Russell.

When read with a TV-announcer voice, the exaggerated mayhem of text and illustration could make for a kooky KO at storytime. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9159-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Gorgeous, shimmering, heartfelt.

I SANG YOU DOWN FROM THE STARS

Anticipation, pregnancy, and the birth of a baby are celebrated in this story from Spillett-Sumner (Inniniwak) and Caldecott medalist Goade (Tlingit).

When a baby chooses its mother, special gatherings of family and community are held to prepare for the child’s arrival. Sacred items are collected and placed in a medicine bundle to be given to the baby at birth. These items will keep the growing child’s connection to their identity strong. Spillett-Sumner’s lyrical text begins as an Indigenous mother plans the journey with her unborn child. “Before I held you in my arms, I sang you down from the stars.” When she finds a white eagle plume, it becomes “the first gift in a bundle that will be yours.” The young mother finds more items for her child’s bundle: cedar, sage, a “star blanket,” and a special river stone “so that you always remember that you belong to this place.” The baby arrives in the spring, “with the waters that come when the ice breaks and the rivers flow again.” Goade uses a white “swoosh” of stars throughout the illustrations to intertwine traditional origin stories with a family’s experience of “love and joy” upon the arrival of the new baby, in scenes that pulse with both emotions. Author and illustrator each contribute a note describing how they drew upon their respective cultural traditions to inform their work, which will open the book up to a wide range of readers.

Gorgeous, shimmering, heartfelt. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49316-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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