THE HAPPY FUNERAL

The rightness of death for the deceased, the painfulness for the survivors—conveyed with exceptional directness in the context of an unfamiliar culture. The reader will immediately wonder, with small narrator Laura, how Grandfather can have a "happy funeral"; as older sister May-May protests, "It's like saying a sad party. Or hot snow. It doesn't make sense." But as the Chinese-American leave-taking unfolds, each custom falls into meaningful place. At the funeral parlor, relatives lay gifts in the casket. Mom's is food "for Grandfather's journey": soy beans, lichee nuts, and, at Laura's suggestion, chocolate chip cookies. Play money, burned, "will be real when it turns into smoke and rises to the spirit world." May-May and Laura have drawn pictures to alight—Laura of Chang, "a dog my grandfather had when he was a boy." (When Chang turns to flame, Laura cries—first, ashamedly, for Chang; then for Grandfather himself.) The funeral brings speeches, recollections, tears; the funeral procession is a fanfare: two cars of flowers, with Grandfather's picture atop the first; a marching, tootling band. ("You'd never guess it was hymns, all jazzed up like this!") But at the cemetery: "Tears are running down Mom's face." The band stops playing. And at the graveside, Laura links her Grandfather's smiling visage with her mother's baffling words. "She never said it was happy for us to have him go." The light-fingered, gray-toned pencil-and-wash drawings display the same combination of sensitivity, economy, and finesse.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0060208937

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982

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A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached.

EXTRA YARN

A little girl in a town of white snow and soot-blackened chimneys opens a small box and discovers a never-ending gift of colorful yarn.

Annabelle knits herself a sweater, and with the leftover yarn, she knits one for her dog, and with the yarn left over from that, she knits one for a neighbor and for her classmates and for her teacher and for her family and for the birdhouse and for the buildings in town. All and everything are warm, cozy and colorful until a clotheshorse of an archduke arrives. Annabelle refuses his monetary offers, whereupon the box is stolen. The greedy archduke gets his just deserts when he opens the box to find it empty. It wends its way back to Annabelle, who ends up happily sitting in a knit-covered tree. Klassen, who worked on the film Coraline, uses inks, gouache and colorized scans of a sweater to create a stylized, linear design of dark geometric shapes against a white background. The stitches of the sweaters add a subdued rainbow. Barnett entertained middle-grade readers with his Brixton Brothers detective series. Here, he maintains a folkloric narrative that results in a traditional story arc complete with repetition, drama and a satisfying conclusion.

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-195338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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