An entertaining thought experiment, but the characters are a bit too on-the-nose for pure comfort.

READ REVIEW

WHAT IS INSIDE THIS BOX?

From the Monkey and Cake series

Anthropomorphic friends Monkey and Cake debate the mysterious contents of a cardboard box.

In a clear reference to Schrödinger, Monkey tells Cake that there’s a cat inside the box—but, supposedly, the cat disappears when the box is opened. Cake questions Monkey’s logic, wondering how they know there is a cat inside when the box is closed. Naturally, Monkey asks how Cake knows there is not a cat inside. Agreeing to disagree—and accepting the paradox—the pair leaves to get pie. The final pages set the matter straight once and for all. Taking a cue from the Elephant & Piggie series formula, the text consists entirely of dialogue. Speech bubbles are color-coded to easily match with characters (blue for Cake; yellow for Monkey). With a vocabulary of around 60 words, the dialogue offers plenty of repetition for emergent readers. Tallec’s expressive, dark-pencil–and-acrylic illustrations are set against a white background. That the characters are a brown monkey with an upturned cap and a yellow-and-pink slice of cake with a coating of brown frosting as hair opens the relationship up to racial analysis. In one spread, a zoomed-in portrait of Cake even looks like a white human. The simultaneously publishing This Is MY Fort! recycles the formula into a lesson on the cruelty of exclusion (Cake makes a fort in which no monkeys are allowed). In both texts, endpapers offer open-ended questions to contextualize the story.

An entertaining thought experiment, but the characters are a bit too on-the-nose for pure comfort. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-14386-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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