In a structured, overstimulated world, downtime needs to be appreciated, and this small amphibian shows the way.

THERE'S NOTHING TO DO!

Petty and Boldt’s young frog often has plenty to gripe about (I Don’t Want to Be Big, 2016, etc.); this time, he is bored.

It is a whine that no caregiver can ever escape: “There’s nothing to do!” A bespectacled older frog asks, “You can’t think of anything?” Full of childhood angst—sprawled out on the floor in despair—the small frog answers, “I can think of lots of things… / buuuuut I don’t want to do any of them.” After naysaying all possibilities, even the ever popular “then clean your room,” the frog decides to ask some friends for advice. Rabbit really likes to hop in circles and then stare into space. Cat suggests licking in between toes, and Owl thinks sleeping is the best idea. Pig helpfully unfurls a list of “Pig’s Fantastic List of Things to Do When He Doesn’t Know What to Do.” Unfortunately, nothing on the list is very fantastic. Boldt’s putty-mouthed frog is the picture of boredom and dejection, finally brightening at the yogic realization that sometimes doing nothing, just being in the moment, is better than anything. This is a lesson well-learned, except when school is the next day and the young frog happily wants to do…nothing (oops).

In a structured, overstimulated world, downtime needs to be appreciated, and this small amphibian shows the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55803-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

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THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A digressive plot gets in the way of this celebration of female relationships.

TOMATOES FOR NEELA

Neela loves cooking with her mother in their big, warm kitchen, where her grandmother’s portrait hangs on the wall.

On Saturday, Neela and Amma go to the green market to buy the vegetable Neela loves cooking best: tomatoes! Together, Neela and Amma make a sauce using a recipe passed down from Paati. As they cook, Neela and her mother dance to the music Amma’s bangles make when she chops vegetables and grates carrots. Amma tells Neela about how tomatoes came from Mesoamerica, where they were cultivated by the ancient Aztecs, and how Europeans initially feared they were poisonous. Now, Amma says, they’re used in cooking all over the world—including India, where Paati’s recipe comes from. As they finish the sauce and can it for the winter, Amma tells Neela about the tomato harvest and about the benefits of eating and cooking vegetables and fruits while they are in season. As they finish preserving the sauce, Neela saves a jar for Paati, who will visit in the winter. Martinez-Neal’s warmly textured, beautifully detailed illustrations are the perfect celebration of intergenerational love. Similarly, the gentle text has some lovely emotional moments. However, Lakshmi includes so much information in the narrative that it meanders, which may cause readers to lose hold of its core. Recipes for sauce and chutney, additional tomato facts, a note about farm workers, and a personal note close the book.

A digressive plot gets in the way of this celebration of female relationships. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20270-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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