An evocative picture-book bildungsroman with equally atmospheric illustrations.

FARAWAY THINGS

A found “faraway thing” becomes a turning point in the life of a boy.

“Lucian live[s] with his mother on a windswept shore.” His father has been absent from their lighthouse home for long enough that Lucian worries his real memories of him are fading. After a storm, Lucian combs the beach for what his father had called “faraway things”—objects tossed up by the sea—and finds a cutlass. Thrilled, he plays with it, sweeping and slashing the air. The next day dawns foggy, but when it lifts Lucian spies a stranded sailing ship. As he watches, a rowboat is lowered from the ship and moves toward him. The captain steps ashore, wearing a sheath that matches the cutlass. He tells Lucian the cutlass belongs to him, but in trade, the captain will let Lucian select anything from his treasures. Lucian reluctantly realizes the cutlass belongs to the captain and agrees. At the ship, the captain shows Lucian wonderful things and advises him to “choose wisely.” Lucian does. This bildungsroman’s timeless and slightly otherworldly feel is underscored by its illustrations’ muted, effective palette of earth, sea, and sky tones. Unusual perspectives—an ingenious choice for a muted palette—create visual stimulation, showing views from both above and below the horizon line. Satisfyingly, the endpapers allegorically start and finish the story. The captain has dark skin; Lucian and the others have light skin.

An evocative picture-book bildungsroman with equally atmospheric illustrations. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49219-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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