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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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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