A fine topic with compelling collage, hampered by poor verse.

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JUST LIKE I WANTED

While making a drawing, a girl adapts mistakes into new subject matter.

This first-person narrator sets out to create “a picture that’s perfect in every way.” Perfection, however, is elusive. Coloring inside the lines is hard, and when results vary from what she intended, she’s upset. She solves this, each time, by changing her content to match the new lines. The theme of flexibility is encouraging. Her subject matter progresses from “a girl who’s clean and neat”—a boring start—to a piano, a horse with pockets who gallop-flies through a land of desserts, and a pirate ship. Gordon-Noy’s mixed-media illustrations use pencil, paint, and marker over a dynamic layering of papers: lined notebook paper, graph paper, doilies, photos, and paper with music scales and notes. Some papers are crumpled; some have an off-white wash over them. The artist/protagonist is drawn in the same style as everything else, making the character one with her art. The fatal flaw is the verse. Rhymes are missed (dreams/cream; around/down), description stilted (“She is having so much fun”), and scansion uneven (“That makes me so mad! Why can’t I stay in the lines? / Should I rip up this picture and begin one more time?”). Oddly, the girl seems more concerned with coloring within the lines that she herself has drawn than with drawing representationally, which feels developmentally off.

A fine topic with compelling collage, hampered by poor verse. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5453-7

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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RAIN SCHOOL

It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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