This marvelous metabook shines in both concept and beauty.



Right from the title page, Freedman’s latest makes a splash.

Atop a black-and-white stack of closed books sits one open book with blue pages fluttering like waves. A yellow fishtail disappears into the page, splashing water into the air above the books. This book happens to be a watery world (fish tank?) where, every day, Snail waits for Fish “to come home with a story.” Fish offers one with “a whole ocean, and a secret treasure, and a pirate ship”—but rather than telling it, “I want to show you this time, Snail!” Nope—Snail won’t go. They fight; Fish departs. Highlighted against the closed books and unobtrusive, black-and-white bookshelves in the background, Fish and Snail’s watercolor world looks clear and fine. But with Fish gone, “[h]ow can this be The Story of Fish & Snail?” Snail peers downward over the edge of the towering pile of books, where Fish has disappeared with a quiet “plimp.” Fish’s body, far below, appears murkily underwater inside the daunting new book. “F-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-S-H!” cries Snail, launching bravely into the air. Water splashes the whole height of the pile as Snail plunges into the new book. Fish peeps around a page’s corner, ready for reconciliation and adventure. Texture, scale and angle accentuate the exciting difference between the in-book worlds and the pale library background.

This marvelous metabook shines in both concept and beauty. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-78489-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.


A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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