Stronger in feeling than storyline, but the lovin’s only lightly tinged with sentimentality.

READ REVIEW

SWEET CHILD O' MINE

A rock band’s 1988 hit makes a tender love note from parent to child.

This print version pairs the original song’s lyrics—stripped of lead singer Axl Rose’s wails and most of the repetitive closing breakdown—to neatly composed scenes of a child’s day with loving adults. The outgoing child, first met singing expressively into a flashlight, and an androgynous guitar player step out of their country home to meet a smiling woman, then end up on an outdoor fairground stage before a diverse family audience of a dozen or so. Aside from references to rain reflected in a quick thunderstorm, the plotline is entirely in the pictures. From the opening “She’s got a smile that it seems to me / reminds me of childhood memories” to the climactic “Where do we go now? // Where do we go? // Sweet child,” the sparse but heartfelt lines, as is typical in picture books based on pop songs, don’t make much literal sense. Still, aided by an occasional subtle change in type size, they create a gentle rhythm that suits the overall intimate tone. If Zivoin methodically tucks roses into nearly every illustration, there seem to be no guns. The characters and family situations are portrayed with enough ambiguity to allow multiple interpretations: The guitar-playing caregiver has light skin, and the woman has brown skin; the child’s skin is a smidge darker than the guitar player’s. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

Stronger in feeling than storyline, but the lovin’s only lightly tinged with sentimentality. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49335-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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