Unlikely to turn many arachnophobes, despite Johnny’s cheery smile.

READ REVIEW

JOHNNY

Spiders are a little scary, even the pretty ones and even the ones that come bearing delicious gifts.

Mind you, Johnny is not pretty. He’s got a nice smile (complete with upward-tending fangs) and rosy checks, but other creatures tend to look askance at the round, black, bug-eyed spider. Johnny can’t get a word out of his mouth before the other creatures heap scorn upon him and flee, even though he bears a cake box. They variously call him a “stinky, prickly beast,” an “itchy-scratchy thing,” a “filthy, fat slimeball” (says the snail), and an “awfully ugly creep.” So Johnny dolefully sings “Happy Birthday” to himself and then scarfs the whole cake. “Johnny is a very sweet [literally, metaphorically] spider, but nobody knows that….Except you! So if you see Johnny around, give him a very big kiss,” the text concludes. It is hard to know if this book is one big pull on the leg. The expressive, cartoony artwork is nice and rich, but spiders don’t stink, scratch, produce slime, or revel in filth, though they do creep (in scary bursts). And give a spider a “very big kiss”? You first. Van Genechten has given expectations a good twist, but the story is short on harmony or communication—for that matter, it’s short on story.

Unlikely to turn many arachnophobes, despite Johnny’s cheery smile. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60537-377-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The book is available in just about every format--but this is the perfect one.

GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU

POP-UP

It's hard to believe that a pop-up wasn't the creators' original intention, so seamlessly do moveable parts dovetail into this modern classic's storyline.

In contrast to the tale's 1998 pop -up version, the figures here move on every page, and with an unusually graceful naturalism to boot. From pulling down Big Nutbrown Hare's ears on the opening spread to make sure he's listening to drowsily turning his head to accept a final good-night kiss in a multi-leveled pull-down tableau at the close, all of Little Nutbrown Hare's hops, stretches and small gestures serve the poetically spare text—as do Big Nutbrown's wider, higher responses to his charge's challenges. As readers turn a flap to read Big Nutbrown's "But I love you this much," his arms extend to demonstrate. The emotional connection between the two hares is clearer than ever in Jeram's peaceful, restrained outdoor scenes, which are slightly larger than those in the trade edition, and the closing scene is made even more intimate by hiding the closing line ("I love you right up to the moon—and back") until an inconspicuous flap is opened up.  

The book is available in just about every format--but this is the perfect one. (Pop-up picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5378-1

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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