Distinctive, luminous illustrations delight the eye, although visually the story lacks complete cohesion.

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RED SKY AT NIGHT

Paired with cut-paper diorama illustrations, folk sayings that predict weather become a story in this picture book.

Author/illustrator MacKay begins with the saying “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” and the accompanying illustration shows a family—an older man and two young children—peering out the window of their cozy house into a red sunset. MacKay creates her illustrations by using cutout paper drawings placed in dioramas, lit, and then photographed. This technique achieves remarkable luminosity and a three-dimensional aspect, with the overall impression being that of looking into a magical stage set. The drawback, though, is that while MacKay does link story elements within the illustrations (the children appear throughout), the individual pictures still don’t agreeably mesh because the light in each one is different, giving a subtle, disparate impression. The organization of weather-related folk sayings into a story of a family sailing, fishing, camping, and then heading home as a storm threatens is original and works well. Too, it may nudge readers to become more curious about their natural world (backmatter gives explanations behind the sayings). And the illustrations—individually—are mesmerizing. Both children and caregiver have beige skin and tightly curled hair, suggesting mixed heritage.

Distinctive, luminous illustrations delight the eye, although visually the story lacks complete cohesion. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-91783-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Wow.

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  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

THE STUFF OF STARS

The stories of the births of the universe, the planet Earth, and a human child are told in this picture book.

Bauer begins with cosmic nothing: “In the dark / in the deep, deep dark / a speck floated / invisible as thought / weighty as God.” Her powerful words build the story of the creation of the universe, presenting the science in poetic free verse. First, the narrative tells of the creation of stars by the Big Bang, then the explosions of some of those stars, from which dust becomes the matter that coalesces into planets, then the creation of life on Earth: a “lucky planet…neither too far / nor too near…its yellow star…the Sun.” Holmes’ digitally assembled hand-marbled paper-collage illustrations perfectly pair with the text—in fact the words and illustrations become an inseparable whole, as together they both delineate and suggest—the former telling the story and the latter, with their swirling colors suggestive of vast cosmos, contributing the atmosphere. It’s a stunning achievement to present to readers the factual events that created the birth of the universe, the planet Earth, and life on Earth with such an expressive, powerful creativity of words paired with illustrations so evocative of the awe and magic of the cosmos. But then the story goes one brilliant step further and gives the birth of a child the same beginning, the same sense of magic, the same miracle.

Wow. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7883-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A $16.99 Mother’s Day card for cat lovers.

MOMMIES ARE AMAZING

The team of Costain and Lovšin (Daddies are Awesome, 2016) gives moms their due.

Rhyming verses tell of all the ways moms are amazing: “Mommies are magic. / They kiss away troubles… // …find gold in the sunlight / and rainbows in bubbles.” Moms are joyful—the best playmates. They are also fearless and will protect and soothe if you are scared. Clever moms know just what to do when you’re sad, sporty moms run and leap and climb, while tender moms cuddle. “My mommy’s so special. / I tell her each day… // … just how much I love her / in every way!” Whereas dads were illustrated with playful pups and grown-up dogs in the previous book, moms are shown as cats with their kittens in myriad colors, sizes, and breeds. Lovšin’s cats look as though they are smiling at each other in their fun, though several spreads are distractingly cut in half by the gutter. However delightful the presentation—the verse rolls fairly smoothly, and the cats are pretty cute—the overall effect is akin to a cream puff’s: very sweet and insubstantial.

A $16.99 Mother’s Day card for cat lovers. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-651-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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