A bittersweet tale of life amid war.

SLEEPING WITH THE LIGHT ON

As the sound and violence of war seep into Guatemala City during the 1950s, little Davico gradually sees his life change piece by piece.

Within the city stands La Casita, a renowned restaurant operated by Davico’s family that’s beloved by many. La Casita’s second floor also serves as the family’s living quarters, where Davico plays with his older brother, Felipe, and Mamá and Papá sometimes argue once the blackouts start. But before the blackouts come, a rain of yellow and blue papers falls from planes. The bright papers speak of “guns, armies and tanks” and “liberación and revolución.” Having fled from the “nonsense” in Germany, Papá struggles to keep the restaurant open as nights full of increasing gunshots and blackouts remind them of the oncoming rattles and bangs of war. Mamá, meanwhile, commits to keeping them whole. Then Papá and Mamá announce that they’re heading to the United States of America, leaving Davico and Felipe behind with stoic Uncle Aaron and strict Aunt Lonia until Papá and Mamá find new jobs and a new house. With a clear focus on Davico and his family—and drawing on his family’s own history—Unger conveys the claustrophobia and anxiety caused by the looming war in just a few pages while building Davico’s life in broad yet vivid strokes. It’s a tenuous balance, especially for a story aimed at such a young readership, but the book works, thanks in part to Aguilera’s illuminating illustrations, which open each chapter.

A bittersweet tale of life amid war. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-384-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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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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