THE LITTLEST FAMILY'S BIG DAY

Looking closely at little details will offer readers big rewards.

A forest-dwelling family of tiny anthropomorphic bears and a baby fox go adventuring.

Martin’s exquisite acrylic-and-gouache illustrations will invite readers to pore over their details in order to take in the many wonders of the miniature, fantastic woodland setting. After setting up house behind a red door at the base of a tree, the littlest family ventures out for a walk, the baby fox in a walnut-shell stroller. (It’s a mixed marriage, father bear a tawny brown, mother bear dark brown, and the children lighter shades of brown.) “Were they alone?” asks the text, printed in a type that approximates cursive. Readers who spy a fairy in the lower-left corner of the verso can anticipate the response at the page turn: “They were not! Not at all.” They greet tiny bunnies, squirrels, birds, raccoons, a bug and a snail, and elves. The family’s wanderings take them boating on leaves across waterways to a spot where they eat wild strawberries, through a storm and to shelter under a toadstool, and then they are lost. A benevolent owl helps them find the best place of all, “HOME,” which is depicted in a gorgeous full-bleed double gatefold. The absence of rich characterization and a fully engaging story is mitigated by the illustrations’ achievement: the art outshines the text throughout. Martin is an illustrator to watch.

Looking closely at little details will offer readers big rewards. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-51101-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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