It’s hard to judge intent, but even if this might provide lighthearted reassurance for young squinters, it’s going to leave...

I CAN SEE JUST FINE

Repeatedly uttering the titular protest, a child is dragged off to “see” the eye doctor in this neatly drawn, too neatly resolved take on a common experience.

Paige’s inability to make out what’s on the class chalkboard is just one of a set of symptoms that trigger a day off from school, an eye exam, a chance to try on a zillion pairs of eyeglass frames and, after a fitting, a whole new, sharply focused world. But if the textual narrative is pretty straightforward, the visual subtext is not. The climactic fuzzy-to-sharp spread implies that Paige’s affliction is really no more than simple myopia, but cues scattered through Barclay’s bright, simple cartoon illustrations point, if apparently unintentionally, to more complex vision (or other) problems. Paige wears mismatched shoes of different colors; in one scene, she “reads” a book held upside down; most egregiously, she happily cuddles a “kitty” that is actually a skunk (later, she identifies it correctly and still cuddles it). Even the final scene, in which Paige pours orange juice into her breakfast cereal while disagreeing with her mother’s remark that her glasses are too dirty to see through, doesn’t quite come off as a joke.

It’s hard to judge intent, but even if this might provide lighthearted reassurance for young squinters, it’s going to leave more observant parents and other caregivers disquieted, at best. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0801-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: abramsappleseed

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Precious—but timely and comforting all the same.

WHILE WE CAN'T HUG

From the Hedgehog and Tortoise Story series

The two creatures who fulfilled each other’s yearning for physical contact in The Hug (2019) find alternative ways to connect in a time of social distancing.

Blushing and smiling and looking every bit as sweet as they did in their original meet-cute, Hedgehog and Tortoise respond to Owl’s reassurance that “there are lots of ways to show someone you love them” by standing on opposing pages and sending signals, letters, dances, air kisses, and songs across the gutter. Demonstrating their mutual love and friendship, they regard each other fondly across the gap through sun and storm, finally gesturing air hugs beneath a rainbow of colors and stars. “They could not touch. / They could not hug. // But they both knew / that they were loved.” In line with the minimalist narrative and illustrations there is no mention of the enforced separation’s cause nor, aside from the titular conjunction, any hint of its possible duration. Still, its core affirmation is delivered in a simple, direct, unmistakable way, and if the thematic connection with the previous outing seems made to order for a marketing opportunity, it does address a widespread emotional need in young (and maybe not so young) audiences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 78% of actual size.)

Precious—but timely and comforting all the same. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-5713-6558-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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An entertaining and reassuring story, but it puts problem-solving entirely on kids’ shoulders.

ELLA MCBELLA IN THE DARK

A girl uses her imagination to handle nighttime fears in this debut picture book.

With her orange hair, freckles, and round blue eyes, Ella McBella is a cheerful-looking White girl, and she’s got plenty of energy for riding her bike and playing outdoors. She also loves just lying on the grass and gazing at clouds. As the day ends, Ella’s jubilation begins to wane, though she does enjoy her dinner and, later, a bedtime story and cuddles. When the lights are out, Ella’s worries begin. She hears sinister noises in the wind, and the shadows in her room turn into scary monster shapes. But Ella takes action to feel better, gathering her teddy bears, reading favorite books by flashlight, and watching the antics of animals outside. Soon, she’s peacefully asleep. In her engaging story, Pells writes rhyming couplets that have a nicely regular meter and vivid word choices: “The shapes change and morph from tree branches to blobs, / growing pointy, long horns and moving in mobs.” She promotes resilience, a laudable goal, but experts point out that frightened kids do need help from adults first—something the tale doesn’t model. Trimarco, an experienced illustrator, contributes playful colored-pencil drawings with cute, Sesame Street–style monsters.

An entertaining and reassuring story, but it puts problem-solving entirely on kids’ shoulders.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73335-481-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2021

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