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EVERYONE'S AWAKE

Don’t sleep on this one.

An energetic, insomniac romp of an anti-bedtime book.

A wakeful child narrator recounts the goings-on in a large, multiracial family’s zany household long after everyone should be asleep. Rhyming verse with a singsong cadence details activities ranging from the mundane (“Grandma’s at her needlework. / Dad is baking bread. / My brother’s making laundry lists / of every book he’s read”) to the bizarre (“Now Mom just took an audience / with Queen Sigrid the Third. / My brother has just taught the cat a dozen dirty words”). It’s a rollicking read-aloud, but inconsistent line breaks may cause some to slip up upon first reading. Pop-culture references pep things up and range from the stodgy (Sinatra, “Clementine”) to the very contemporary (poke tattoos, the film Condorman), though the conceit drags on a bit too long. Throughout, Harris’ illustrations have a retro feel that evokes, at turns, Tomie Ungerer and Maira Kalman, and they expand on the details of the text to ratchet up the humor and drama—building on the mention of a lake to depict the setting not as a mere house but an elaborate lighthouse. The conclusion shows the narrator descending the stairs to find everyone asleep at daybreak, a predictable, yet satisfying, end.

Don’t sleep on this one. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7805-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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HOW TO CATCH A MAMASAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series.

Another creature is on the loose.

The long-running series continues its successful formula with this Hallmark card of a book, which features bright illustrations and catchy rhymes. This time, the mythical creature the racially diverse children set out to catch is an absent mom who does it all (lists of descriptors include the words banker, caregiver, nurse, doctor, driver, chef, housekeeper, teacher, entertainer, playmate, laundry service, problem solver, handywoman, cleaner, and alarm clock) but doesn’t seem to have a job outside the home and is inexplicably a dinosaur. As the children prepare gifts and a meal for her, the text becomes an ode to the skills the Mamasaurus possesses (“Day or night she’s always there. / She meets every wish and need”) and values she instills (“Sometimes life can mean hard work,” “kindness matters,” and “what counts is doing your best”). This well-intentioned selection veers into cliche generously sprinkled with saccharine but manages to redeem itself with its appreciation for mothers and all that they may do. Endpapers include a “to” and “from” page framed in a heart, as well as a page where young gift givers or recipients can draw a picture of their Mamasaurus.

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781728274300

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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