SWEET DREAMERS

A delight.

A stylized, visually stunning introduction to animals and animal facts that doubles neatly as a bedtime story.

In this French import, slumbering animals, insects, and sea creatures are depicted in highly detailed spreads paired with lyrical free verse. Delicate clusters of lines characterize the digital illustrations, which, dominated by black, resemble scratchboard with a modern twist: Vibrant neon-orange highlights the moonlit details on nearly every page. The visual and verbal pacing excels. Wordless full-bleed landscape endpapers and title pages gently draw readers in, inspiring quiet wonder and appreciation of the natural world before zooming in on the first featured creature: a sloth, asleep in a tree. What follows is an organic, loosely educational exploration of animals’ experiences of sleep: In each spread, Simler’s text, translated from the original French, cleverly acknowledges fact (the sloth sleeps “slung like a hammock”) while entertaining flights of fancy (“the sloth dreams / of spring-loaded sprinters, / of rockets blasting off”). The creatures themselves are easily recognizable; many, refreshingly, are less-common subjects, including a humpback whale, a flamingo, and a wild boar. Every so often, the close-up animal spreads are punctuated by new wordless nighttime landscape spreads over which to linger. In the final spread, an unnamed light-skinned girl slumbers: a cue for readers to do the same. The satisfyingly large trim size, soothing pacing, and imaginative text invite shared (and frequent) reading.

A delight. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5517-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

CARPENTER'S HELPER

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

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. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

SLUG IN LOVE

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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