It would be a grave mistake not to pick up this picture book.

THE BOOK OF MISTAKES

A striking debut picture book celebrates the creative process.

Spread by spread, text identifies “mistakes” in art that give way to inspired new creations. “Even the ink smudges scattered across the sky / look as if they could be leaves— / like they’d always wanted to be lifted up / and carried,” reads text representative of the lyrically ruminative language, and it’s juxtaposed with art depicting just such a scene as a little black child looks up at the smudgy leaves. Twists and turns of the changing compositions will provoke delight in readers examining the pages to see how the white girl with the glasses (which started off as eyes that looked too big) changes, and then how she will fit into the increasingly complex compositions. The evolving black ink, colored pencil, and watercolor pictures seem at once spontaneous and refined against the white space of the page. Careful looking will be rewarded with surprising, often funny details in the art, which invites poring over and will slow down the reading of the spare text. The main character, the bespectacled white girl, is eventually joined by a diverse group of other children who play in and around a festive, fantastic-looking tree, all rendered in a style and palette somewhat reminiscent of Erin E. Stead’s work but distinctive in its own right.

It would be a grave mistake not to pick up this picture book. (Picture book. 4-12)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2792-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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