An inspiring and wistful message wrapped up in a subtle, thoughtful narrative and lively, beautiful art: simply superb.

MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

HOW ART TRANSFORMED A NEIGHBORHOOD

In a neighborhood full of gray, young Mira shares her colorful art (and heart) with the world beyond her window.

First Mira gives a painting of an apple to Mr. Henry, the shop owner. She then offers a songbird to Mr. Sax and a deep red heart to the local beat cop. Still, her art project hits its limit. “Her city was less gray—but not much.” Soon a mysterious artist approaches Mira, offering a boost. “What do you see?” Mira asks him. “Maybe…something beautiful,” he replies. Leading readers on an infectious ride, Campoy and Howell’s text bristles with dazzling energy. Words pop out of the page in bursts of oomph (“BAM! POW!”) as color begins to fill the city. The authors, moreover, mix in dynamic moments with quiet scenes, producing a tone both lively and contemplatively hopeful. The illustrations, however, are the main attraction. López, whose career as a muralist inspired this story, loads each double-page spread with curves, splashes of paint, and geometric shapes, changing page orientation for emphasis at times. As Mira’s neighbors join in on the fun, the city comes alive with unforgettable human spirit. The mysterious artist sums it all up: “The world is your canvas.”

An inspiring and wistful message wrapped up in a subtle, thoughtful narrative and lively, beautiful art: simply superb. (authors’ note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-35769-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Clever verse coupled with bold primary-colored images is sure to attract and hone the attention of fun-seeking children...

TOYS GALORE

A fizzy yet revealing romp through the toy world.

Though of standard picture-book size, Stein and illustrator Staake’s latest collaboration (Bugs Galore, 2012, etc.) presents a sweeping compendium of diversions for the young. From fairies and gnomes, race cars and jacks, tin cans and socks, to pots ’n’ pans and a cardboard box, Stein combs the toy kingdom for equally thrilling sources of fun. These light, tightly rhymed quatrains focus nicely on the functions characterizing various objects, such as “Floaty, bubbly, / while-you-wash toys” or “Sharing-secrets- / with-tin-cans toys,” rather than flatly stating their names. Such ambiguity at once offers Staake free artistic rein to depict copious items capable of performing those tasks and provides pre-readers ample freedom to draw from the experiences of their own toy chests as they scan Staake’s vibrant spreads brimming with chunky, digitally rendered objects and children at play. The sense of community and sharing suggested by most of the spreads contributes well to Stein’s ultimate theme, which he frames by asking: “But which toy is / the best toy ever? / The one most fun? / Most cool and clever?” Faced with three concluding pages filled with all sorts of indoor and outside toys to choose from, youngsters may be shocked to learn, on turning to the final spread, that the greatest one of all—“a toy SENSATION!”—proves to be “[y]our very own / imagination.”

Clever verse coupled with bold primary-colored images is sure to attract and hone the attention of fun-seeking children everywhere. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6254-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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