This intergenerational lesson smoothly encourages readers to share a girl’s gratitude for the natural world.

THE FIG TREE

A grumpy girl learns an important lesson from her grandfather about a special tree in this picture book.

After a bad day at school, Lydia joins her grandfather sitting under a fig tree. He describes how he spent his day pruning and caring for the tree. Lydia can’t quite understand putting so much effort into looking after the tree: “Why go to all of that trouble for something that just stands there not doing much of anything?”  But as her grandfather recounts the way the tree has sheltered him over the years, the delicious food made from its fruit, and the beauty it brings to the yard in every season, Lydia realizes how special it is. And as she develops an admiration for the tree, she discovers that she no longer feels grouchy. Lonczak’s meditative text uses a simple enough vocabulary for independent readers to peruse comfortably. The slow pace and focus on appreciation make it a good choice for bedtime or gratitude-centered classroom reading. Varjotie’s soft-edged illustrations, which feature cartoonish animals and light-skinned humans against painterly backgrounds, match the relaxed tone. Lydia’s facial expressions seem to let go of her grumpiness much earlier in the images than the text, but the connection she feels to her grandfather, who helps her learn to really see the tree, comes through clearly. A reference to Lydia’s Spanish-speaking father in the soothing tale pays tribute to mixed-heritage families.

This intergenerational lesson smoothly encourages readers to share a girl’s gratitude for the natural world.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73536-250-2

Page Count: 34

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2020

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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

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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