IAN PENNEY'S ABC

Each page of Penney’s alphabet resembles a piece of stained glass, not in the precious sense, but in its composition and light. The letters are framed within a border of the alphabet, and the illustrations within are whimsical, typically English takes on the countryside: half-timber structures, castles, walled gardens, villages, royalty. Letters are shown in both upper and lower case, e.g., U is for umbrella, but other objects that take u as the first letter also appear in the scene—underground, urn, and might that be an undertaker? Each vignette is a treasure for children to mine for surprise components, occurrences, and details, many of which play upon the setting—the tiny witch wafting past the windmill and a spider spinning a web—selected by Penney from locales that have been preserved in England, Ireland, and Wales by the National Trust. Elegant and illuminating. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8109-4350-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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While the ghoulies here are more cute than scary, “jump,” “quiver,” and “run” will probably get across the idea to even the...

HALLOWEEN ABC

An abecedary of spooky or autumnal delights for the littlest readers.

Each letter of the alphabet is highlighted on a single page, the upper- and lowercase letters appearing in the upper left-hand corner, while the object is named at the bottom or in the upper right. Ho keeps her illustrations simple and places them against plain, brightly colored backgrounds, keeping them accessible to those still learning about Halloween’s many icons. The almost-fluorescent orange cover is sure to attract attention, and the palette of black, purple, orange, yellow, and radioactive green enhances the Halloween mood. But while many of the chosen items will be expected—bats, ghost, haunted house, owl, skeleton, vampire, witch, zombie—others are rather odd choices. J is for “jump,” not jack-o’-lantern (“pumpkin” is illustrated with a jack-o’-lantern); K is for a mostly black “kitten” standing in a coffin; and N is for “nightmare,” which is virtually impossible to express visually for this age group without provoking said nightmare. Here, a lavender-skinned child (zombie?) in pajamas and nightcap has arms raised and mouth open wide in surprise—perhaps in response to the mummy across the gutter? The tough letters use “quiver,” spider-decorated “underpants” on a monster, and “extra treats,” the x underlined.

While the ghoulies here are more cute than scary, “jump,” “quiver,” and “run” will probably get across the idea to even the youngest listeners that Halloween can be scary. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9527-9

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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