Translated from the Portuguese and first published in England, this account of a child’s discovery of the world and its...

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WHEN I WAS BORN

This cheerfully existential tome charms, from the stylized cherry tree on the endpapers to the very last page.

The first page is black, with white sans-serif letters: “When I was born I had never seen anything.” The narrator had never seen “the sun or a flower or a face” or the sea or the forest. His hands didn’t know about playing. "Everything was about to start." His mouth discovers it can taste and shout and kiss and stick his tongue out. He lists smells he loves, like the scent of his grandmother’s lap. Each day he discovers something new: running and jumping; saying “nice words and bad words”; learning colors. The images are made of strong, simple shapes and hues of red, white, black, green and gold. There is a wonderful spread of peppers, cherries, melons and tomatoes, as well as a wall of family pictures with an uncle with a long (bright) red beard, an auntie with green skin, a pink-faced grandpapa and a golden-skinned grandmamma (both with white hair). Birds, animals, leaves and boxes sit proudly on the pages, surrounding the child, who sports a green-and-white striped shirt and rosy cheeks.

Translated from the Portuguese and first published in England, this account of a child’s discovery of the world and its wonders unfolds self-consciously but winningly . (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-85437-958-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tate/Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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Should have readers and caregivers singing, clapping, and bouncing along.

THE BUTTON BOOK

This picture book plays on the universal temptation to push buttons.

A squirrel—presumably the first-person narrator of the book—finds a large, round, red button and wonders what would happen when it’s pressed. The squirrel presses the button, and a large rubber horn pops up and honks: “Beep!” The sound attracts a bird and a dog, and together the three come across a triangular orange button. “What does the orange button do?” they wonder, and they discover that it causes them all to clap. As the picture book progresses, other animals—including an elephant, a tortoise, a deer, and a small dinosaur—join the trio, and together they come across and press a giant hexagonal blue button, a round green button, a yellow button (literally—it looks as though it’s come off a coat), a square pink button, and a small purple button that can only be reached by climbing a ladder. Each of the buttons makes the friends do something different, from singing and bouncing to blowing raspberries. British writer Nicholls’ simple, silly narrative and Woollvin’s colorfully childlike illustrations result in a fun picture book that incorporates shapes and colors and that can be used at home and in libraries and classrooms. Pages are dominated by gray with accents—including the animals’ fur and feathers—changing to match the color of each button.

Should have readers and caregivers singing, clapping, and bouncing along. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6715-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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A riotously fresh take on breaking the fourth wall.

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THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES

This book may not have pictures, but it’s sure to inspire lots of conversations—and laughs.

Television writer, actor and comedian Novak delivers a rare find, indeed: a very good celebrity picture book. It doesn’t even seem fair to call it such, since it has nothing to do with his Emmy Award–winning writing for The Office or the fame his broader career has afforded him. The jacket flap even eschews a glossy photo, instead saying “B.J. has brown hair and blue eyes,” in order to keep with the book’s central conceit. What this book does have is text, and it’s presented through artful typography that visually conveys its changing tone to guide oral readings. Furthermore, the text implies (or rather, demands) a shared reading transaction, in which an adult is compelled to read the text aloud, no matter how “COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS” it is. Employing direct address, it pleads with the implied child listener to allow him or her to stop reading. Nonsense words, silly words to be sung and even a smattering of potty talk for good measure all coalesce in riotous read-aloud fare. Although the closing pages beg the implied child reader to “please please please please / please / choose a book with pictures” for subsequent reading, it’s likely that this request will be ignored.

A riotously fresh take on breaking the fourth wall. (. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4171-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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