Young readers not overwhelmed by the visual intensity will chant the minimal text; older ones will note questions about...

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Dramatic paintings add depth and foreboding to a lesson about excessive materialism.

Magpies are famous for collecting shiny objects, and this protagonist is a classic exemplar. At first, he stands in the bottom-right corner of a blank spread, downcast. Composition and expression display his isolated melancholy; the text murmurs, “Nothing.” A mouse gives him a marble, which sets the bird to collecting objects and building many nests to hold them. Text remains sparse:  “A few, / several, // more / and more and more. // Lots.” The plot is simple: The collected objects become so numerous that a nest crashes to the ground, burying the magpie. (Mice unbury him; he’s uninjured.) The unsurprising moral is that two or three objects are, “Yes, enough” (though the magpie still needs the mouse’s persuasion to accept that lesson). Lies contrasts pale, faintly patterned backgrounds of handmade paper with forceful close-ups in acrylic and colored pencil. Large, dark areas inside the nests show stolen items—Lego, penny, toothbrush, binky, spoon—as identifiable but no longer shiny, emphasizing Springman’s message. The illustration of the crash is downright scary. This magpie’s leg-band goes unexplained; does it symbolize entrapment, civilization or the infinite danger (the numbers echo Pi) of hoarding?

Young readers not overwhelmed by the visual intensity will chant the minimal text; older ones will note questions about accumulation, materialism, friendship—and how to decide what’s meaningful. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-61083-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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