Careful nurturing begets the launch into the unknown: Valentini celebrates both as natural and fitting.

STAY, LITTLE SEED

In Valentini’s fable, originally published in Italy in 2008, a gust of wind wafts a tree’s seeds away—leaving one.

The tree urges the little seed off: “Hurry up, or you’ll be left behind. / Don’t you want to join all your brothers and sisters?” The seed is fearful about flying off to “Who Knows Where.” The tree, personifying the parent’s classic conflict between the impulse to cosset offspring and helping them individuate, allows the seed to stay. “Just one more day” becomes another, then a week, then more, as the tree frets about rain, sun, and wind. This shared stasis continues until a deus ex magpie snatches the seed and, laughing, drops it Who Knows Where. Throughout ensuing seasonal cycles, the tree, “wondering with its tender heart,” worries about the seed. One day, a voice from below hails the tree, who recognizes its progeny, now transformed as “a sapling, beautiful and strong.” Giordano’s pictures—precise black line drawings against cream-colored pages—don’t so much extend the text as parallel-play with it. Tree and seeds sport faces dominated by curvilinear noses in accent colors of blue, green, and red. Woodland creatures help nurture the seed, which even spends time nestled among a bird’s eggs. Fancifully, tiny trappings—hats, rain boots—share some critters’ polka-dot coloration.

Careful nurturing begets the launch into the unknown: Valentini celebrates both as natural and fitting. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-646-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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