A very funny read-aloud done (mostly) right-side up.

ABNER & IAN GET RIGHT-SIDE UP

Take reading for a spin (literally) with the newest metafictive comedy duo, Abner and Ian.

Their oddball routine begins with Abner, a duck, and Ian, a prairie dog, standing sideways on the edges of the pages—parallel rather than perpendicular to the background. Abner suggests breaking the fourth wall to ask readers (referred to in the singular as “the kid”) to help by shaking the book and turning the pages. Ian expresses some doubt about the idea. But, when Abner notes that they’ve “seen it work before” (a hilarious moment of meta-metafiction), the pals go forward with the plan. A countdown cue instructs readers to do as they’re told. Subsequent page turns find Abner and Ian in various different post-shake orientations (upside down, in the gutter, all mixed up, etc.). Will they ever make it to where they’re supposed to be so they can start the story? At 80 pages, the joke carries on a bit too long, but the witty back and forth between the two characters makes for a quick pace. Park’s art matches a limited palette of earth tones with bright, bold backgrounds. Her cartoon characters are richly expressive, nicely varied within the context of the heavy compositional repetition required to fuel the comedy. Amusingly, Abner’s scarf demonstrates at all times that it is subject to the law of gravity, even if the characters are not. Given the characters’ broad vocabularies, it’s a shame they resort to variations of “crazy” to describe how they want the book to be shaken.

A very funny read-aloud done (mostly) right-side up. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48586-9

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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