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

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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A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

PERFECTLY NORMAN

From the Big Bright Feelings series

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 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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