THE BEST BOOK TO READ

In Bertram and Bloom’s rhymed tale, a librarian introduces a troop of youngsters to books on all sorts of subjects—exploration, science, cooking, pets—that the illustrations interpret by transporting a couple of youngsters into a representative scene. The librarian holds up a cookbook by Martha Muffin on the left-hand page; the full-bleed image on the facing page depicts three of the kids baking a cake, and so on. Garland’s distinctive artwork is well known by now, with its combination of soft and sharp elements, its cutout feel and subtle warping. The illustrations’ good cheer complements the feel-good message well, although the product-placement of his books irks, even if intended as tongue-in-cheek. The uneven text, however, hurts the most, some of it rolling along, some of it an off-beat mouthful: “Here’s a book about being a trainer. / ‘Sit!’ ‘Stay!’ and ‘Play dead!’ / ‘Do not jump on Mom’s bed!’ / Training dogs will become a no-brainer.” This well-intentioned celebration of reading is not, alas, the best book for the job. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-84702-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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This extraordinary book will make it hard for any child reader to settle for the mundaneness of reality.

WHAT IF...

A testament to the power of an imaginative mind.

A compulsively creative, unnamed, brown-skinned little girl with purple hair wonders what she would do if the pencil she uses “to create…stories that come from my heart” disappeared. Turns out, it wouldn’t matter. Art can take many forms. She can fold paper (origami), carve wood, tear wallpaper to create texture designs, and draw in the dirt. She can even craft art with light and darkness or singing and dancing. At the story’s climax, her unencumbered imagination explodes beyond the page into a foldout spread, enabling readers both literally and figuratively to see into her fantasy life. While readers will find much to love in the exuberant rhyming verse, attending closely to the illustrations brings its own rewards given the fascinating combinations of mixed media Curato employs. For instance, an impressively colorful dragon is made up of different leaves that have been photographed in every color phase from green to deep red, including the dragon’s breath (made from the brilliant orange leaves of a Japanese maple) and its nose and scales (created by the fan-shaped, butter-colored leaves of a gingko). Sugar cubes, flower petals, sand, paper bags, marbles, sequins, and lots more add to and compose these brilliant, fantasy-sparking illustrations.

This extraordinary book will make it hard for any child reader to settle for the mundaneness of reality. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39096-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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