Visually cheap, narratively forced.



Operators at a color factory lose control and ask readers for help.

A panda, a zebra, and a bespectacled penguin—the same characters who managed The Black and White Factory (2016)—invite readers into the Color Factory for a grand-opening tour. This manufacturing plant uses a fancy replicating machine to calculate a color’s exact ingredients. The color-creation process is never depicted; instead, one page displays the upcoming color’s ingredients—Fire Engine Red and Canary Yellow make Factory-Approved Orange, for instance—while the following page reveals objects of that color (in this case, basketballs, traffic cones, and safety vests). The text bristles with rigid language, such as “strict formulas,” and frequent repetition of the terms “Factory-Approved” and “perfect”; when things inevitably go awry, the drama feels as forced as these rules do. It’s also unclear quite how things go awry. After readers are asked to pull blue and pink separately onto a lollipop, the lollipop suddenly has brown-gray stripes, and other objects are somehow colored in warm grays: “We do not approve!” yells the zebra as sirens wail. Actions requested of readers—tapping, rubbing, or inhaling colors—are disconnected from the displayed results. A chaos of circles, swirls, diagonals, and jagged lines along with too many similarly saturated colors create busy pages lacking focus. Hervé Tullet’s Mix It Up (2014) treats similar themes brilliantly and without blaming readers in the process.

Visually cheap, narratively forced. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0556-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...


A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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