THE LITTLE GARDENER

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

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 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

PERFECTLY NORMAN

From the Big Bright Feelings series

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

I'LL LOVE YOU FOREVER

Parent-child love and affection, appealingly presented, with the added attraction of the seasonal content and lack of gender...

A polar-bear parent speaks poetically of love for a child.

A genderless adult and cub travel through the landscapes of an arctic year. Each of the softly rendered double-page paintings has a very different feel and color palette as the pair go through the seasons, walking through wintry ice and snow and green summer meadows, cavorting in the blue ocean, watching whales, and playing beside musk oxen. The rhymes of the four-line stanzas are not forced, as is the case too often in picture books of this type: “When cold, winter winds / blow the leaves far and wide, / You’ll cross the great icebergs / with me by your side.” On a dark, snowy night, the loving parent says: “But for now, cuddle close / while the stars softly shine. // I’ll always be yours, / and you’ll always be mine.” As the last illustration shows the pair curled up for sleep, young listeners will be lulled to sweet dreams by the calm tenor of the pictures and the words. While far from original, this timeless theme is always in demand, and the combination of delightful illustrations and poetry that scans well make this a good choice for early-childhood classrooms, public libraries, and one-on-one home read-alouds.

Parent-child love and affection, appealingly presented, with the added attraction of the seasonal content and lack of gender restrictions. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68010-070-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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