A buoyant read to sweeten the spirit.

GROW

A girl and her neighborhood band together to bring a little color to a drab city in Platt and Holden’s hopeful picture book.

In the bustling city, there is a vacant lot full of dreary weeds, litter, and not much else. Walking near the lot one day, a girl comes up with “a little seed of an idea.” The girl soon gets to work, pulling out weeds and cultivating the soil. Her actions, meanwhile, attract the attention of others. Neighbors join in to assist the girl, and the merry group clears the lot and enjoys their time together as seasons come and go. In her picture-book debut, Holden crafts a sequence of lovely pastel pictures, which convey the narrative in snapshots. The nondescript city stirs with typical city life that fades to the background as the neighborhood project grows. Plain and direct, Platt’s text offers platitudes wrapped in a wistful tone brimming with earnestness. At times, the text is too gentle to transcend the page, although it delivers enough zest to suggest optimism. The book’s message surfaces more clearly through the community—diverse in skin color, physical ability, age, and body size—depicted in the illustrations. The girl who acts as catalyst has dark skin and long, black hair. With the lot cleared, the girl and her neighbors plant seeds. Before long, a garden blooms in the once-empty lot, and a community comes together to celebrate.

A buoyant read to sweeten the spirit. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68152-239-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amicus Ink

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it.

THE OLD BOAT

A multigenerational tale of a boat’s life with a Black family, written by two brothers who loved similar boats.

In the opening spread, a smiling, brown-skinned adult dangles a line from the back of a green-and-white boat while a boy peers eagerly over the side at the sea life. The text never describes years passing, but each page turn reveals the boy’s aging, more urban development on the shore, increasing water pollution, marine-life changes (sea jellies abound on one page), and shifting water levels. Eventually, the boy, now a teenager, steers the boat, and as an adult, he fishes alone but must go farther and farther out to sea to make his catch. One day, the man loses his way, capsizes in a storm, and washes up on a small bay island, with the overturned, sunken boat just offshore. Now a “new sailor” cleans up the land and water with others’ help. The physical similarities between the shipwrecked sailor and the “new sailor” suggest that this is not a new person but one whose near-death experience has led to an epiphany that changes his relationship to water. As the decaying boat becomes a new marine habitat, the sailor teaches the next generation (a child with hair in two Afro puffs) to fish. Focusing primarily on the sea, the book’s earth-toned illustrations, created with hundreds of stamps, carry the compelling plot.

A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00517-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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