A lovely visual tribute to the persistent hard work behind every flourishing garden.

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THE LITTLE GARDENER

A lad scarcely bigger than his pet worm struggles to maintain a large garden by himself.

The garden “didn’t look like much, / but it meant everything to its gardener. // It was his home. It was his supper. / It was his joy.” Lushly painted primordial plant forms surround the boy’s tiny thatched cottage; stylized depictions suggest proliferating invaders like thistle and plantain. As undesirables multiply and insects infest, the harvest worsens. The boy despairs: “he wasn’t much good at gardening. // … // He was just too little.” Dispatching an unheard wish for “a bit of help” into the night, the overworked lad sleeps for a month. His prized inspiration—a solitary red zinnia—also charms a “someone”—a full-sized, brown-skinned girl who lives nearby. “It was alive and wonderful. / It gave the someone hope. It made the someone want to work harder.” Several spreads showcase the transformation surrounding the slumbering boy as the girl weeds, sows, and transplants. The little gardener awakens to a colorful summer landscape of blooms, butterflies, even an increasing worm population. The narrative ends by coyly inverting its first lines: “He doesn’t look like much, but he means everything to his garden.” Given the girl’s major role, the contrivance doesn’t ring true. Hughes’ paintings trump her story, depicting the garden’s renewal through color and form.

A lovely visual tribute to the persistent hard work behind every flourishing garden. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-909263-43-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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For readers who haven’t a musk ox of their own to snuggle up with, this tale proves just as cozy.

COZY

An agreeable Alaskan musk ox embodies that old Ben Franklin adage, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

When Cozy the ox is separated from his herd in the midst of a winter storm, he decides to wait it out. His massive size and warmth attract small animals—a lemming family and a snowshoe hare—desperate to escape the cold. However, as bigger, predatory creatures arrive, Cozy must lay down some “house rules” that grow with each new creature that arrives until they extend to: “Quiet voices, gentle thumping, claws to yourself, no biting, no pouncing, and be mindful of others!” Over time, the guests grow antsy, but at last spring arrives and Cozy can find his family. The tale is not dissimilar to another Jan Brett tale of cold weather and animals squeezing into a small space (The Mitten, 1989). Meticulous watercolors refrain from anthropomorphizing, rendering everyone, from massive Cozy to the tiniest of lemmings, in exquisite detail. This moving tale of gentle kindness serves as a clarion call for anyone searching for a book about creating your own community in times of trial. Brett even includes little details about real musk oxen in the text (such as their tendency to form protective circles to surround their vulnerable young), but readers hoping for further information in any backmatter will be disappointed. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 37.3% of actual size.)

For readers who haven’t a musk ox of their own to snuggle up with, this tale proves just as cozy. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10979-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the...

ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER

Rhymed couplets convey the story of a girl who likes to build things but is shy about it. Neither the poetry nor Rosie’s projects always work well.

Rosie picks up trash and oddments where she finds them, stashing them in her attic room to work on at night. Once, she made a hat for her favorite zookeeper uncle to keep pythons away, and he laughed so hard that she never made anything publicly again. But when her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and reminds Rosie of her own past building airplanes, she expresses her regret that she still has not had the chance to fly. Great-great-aunt Rose is visibly modeled on Rosie the Riveter, the iconic, red-bandanna–wearing poster woman from World War II. Rosie decides to build a flying machine and does so (it’s a heli-o-cheese-copter), but it fails. She’s just about to swear off making stuff forever when Aunt Rose congratulates her on her failure; now she can go on to try again. Rosie wears her hair swooped over one eye (just like great-great-aunt Rose), and other figures have exaggerated hairdos, tiny feet and elongated or greatly rounded bodies. The detritus of Rosie’s collections is fascinating, from broken dolls and stuffed animals to nails, tools, pencils, old lamps and possibly an erector set. And cheddar-cheese spray.

Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the right place. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0845-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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