Superficially sweet, with sophisticated undercurrents that young readers won’t grasp.

READ REVIEW

NARA AND THE ISLAND

A young girl explores a nearby island and discovers a surprise.

Nara, a red-haired, fair-skinned girl, lives with her equally pale father on an island “so small you can’t lose anything.” From the secret place she goes to when she wants to get lost, Nara dreams of visiting a nearby island she can see. Then one day her father fixes their boat and drops her off to explore the island while he rows in search of the Big Fish. (The giant fish is shown in the endpapers in an overhead view, with an odd and unsettling addition on the back endpapers of three people floating near it.) Ungureanu's illustrations are rendered in muted colors evocative of early-20th-century illustrated books and have an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland feel to them as he shows Nara exploring the exotic island that is so much wilder than her own. Nara’s homely face is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s work, adding to the book’s overall nostalgic and somewhat otherworldly feel. When Nara meets Aran, a blond, fair boy who lives on the wild island (and whose name is Nara spelled backward), they share confidences and become friends. Readers may wish for an ending with more obvious oomph, but there are strong undercurrents of doppelgänger here that give the story an extra twist.

Superficially sweet, with sophisticated undercurrents that young readers won’t grasp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-1793-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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