He closes with a spread containing seven more tips to get preschoolers started, the most important of which may be to “play,...


The author/artist of several books of portraits made from found objects provides a lesson in how to see and make faces using child-friendly materials found in the junk drawer and elsewhere.

While his earlier works included tips about how to make portraits from random items, in this, Piven devotes a full book to it, introducing the concept to the very youngest. The first spread shows individual items that resemble faces: a toilet-paper dispenser, a boxy fan with knobs. From there he expands, asking tots to train their eyes to find similar patterns (eyes, nose, mouth and such) in groups of objects. One spread shows scattered plastic fruits and vegetables. With a turn of the page, Piven reveals the faces he sees by masking the extraneous items. (Cleverly, the outlines depict head-types of all sorts, such as peanut- or even footprint-shaped.) In this way, Piven conducts a conversation directly with his young art students; his comments are brief and appear in big, inviting type. After a few examples, Piven invites children to gather “stuff,” and, using it, he composes faces demonstrating a range of emotions: happy, goofy, scared and sleepy.

He closes with a spread containing seven more tips to get preschoolers started, the most important of which may be to “play, play, play!” This whimsical exercise is also a great lesson in reuse and recycling. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4169-1532-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.


A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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