Just listening has its limits, but this is a start.

READ REVIEW

LISTEN

How to develop and nurture empathy in ourselves and others?

It just takes listening with open hearts, open eyes and ears, and open minds. In fact, it will help to use all our senses. There’s a big, beautiful world for us to engage with, and it belongs to everyone, so readers are exhorted to dig in—sometimes literally. The writing is gentle, lyrical, and comforting, meant to help readers think dreamy, lofty thoughts. However, the language is occasionally vague, some concepts perhaps too abstract to strike a resonant chord with some literal-minded youngsters. Even adults might profess to being unsure about what the softly poetic prose suggests. That could be problematic for those sharing the book with children needing explanations of a few passages. Alternatively, it could prove beneficial since this slim volume should spark lively conversations about the book’s themes: of understanding, awareness of self and others, compassion, and inclusion. Lines such as “Listen / with your heart. / It is / your ears / your eyes / your nose / your mouth / your hands. / Your heart / can hear everything, / see everything, / smell everything, / taste everything, / touch everything…” should encourage animated discussion or even interpretive artwork. The soft-colored, childlike illustrations feature a lone white, dark-haired child relishing nature on most spreads. Her solitary appearance is somewhat at odds with the emphasis on inclusiveness and interconnection, however.

Just listening has its limits, but this is a start. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31812-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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