Paula’s final declaration that “I’ll be her friend forever” shows that she’s learned a valuable lesson, one that listeners...

MY FRIEND MAGGIE

Teasing tests the friendship of two young girls.

According to narrator Paula, Maggie and she have “been friends forever.” Proof of that assertion starts on the endpapers—a crayon drawing of the two friends—followed by illustrations that look like old-style photographs on the verso and title page. Whether smiling out from a class photo or pictured as infants, the two seem completely simpatico. But then bullying rears its ugly head. A classmate opines that Maggie is “too big.” Her size isn’t surprising: she’s an elephant. But that unkind comment leads Paula, a beaver, to re-evaluate her friend in an unfortunately stereotypical but all too believable way. Maggie is “clumsy,” terrible at hide-and-seek, and wears her clothes too tight. Harrison’s brightly colored acrylic paintings amplify the emotions, showing mean girl Veronica (a sleek terrier) with squinting eyes and smug smile and pushover Paula casting a regretful look back at Maggie. Harrison’s straightforward, first-person text, while understated, also conveys a wealth of emotion. The use of exclamation points, ellipses, and italics guides readers to give the words a distinctly conversational tone. Luckily for Paula, Maggie is bighearted enough to forgive her friend’s betrayal and strong enough to defend her when necessary.

Paula’s final declaration that “I’ll be her friend forever” shows that she’s learned a valuable lesson, one that listeners would do well to heed. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42916-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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