Visually stunning, and meta, sorta, but ultimately discordant.

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THE WEB

Simler (Plume, 2017) presents a seemingly guileless visual inventory of nature’s minutiae, but a spider’s surreptitious, side-by-side activity conveys a more mysterious subtext in this French import.

“In nature there is much to see, if you look closely.” A stylized oceanside scene—trees and flowers in the foreground, boats sailing, gulls flying, a shark swimming—seems idyllic enough. “You may find… / …leaves, / catkins and seeds,” and so much more. Simler invites readers to pore over exquisitely rendered natural elements, including multiple spreads of insects. Each creature, flower, or thorny stem appears against white space on the left, labeled with its common name. Each right-hand page features a close-up of the spider—often glimpsed only in part—interacting with one or more of these objects or critters. She’s making off with a fern frond, an emerald-hued shield bug, an acorn cap, even some pebbles—but why? The puzzle’s solved as Simler reveals “a web, / and a skillful, watchful artist… / …weaving a delicate masterpiece.” Readers see each captured element suspended in the web, carefully arrayed to replicate the seascape introduced at the outset. A thorn’s the shark’s fin; nutshells stuck with feathers are sailboats. The allegorical denouement (the spider’s an “artist” rather than a predatory arachnid) feels manipulative, counteracting the relative verisimilitude with which Simler approaches her natural catalog.

Visually stunning, and meta, sorta, but ultimately discordant. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4413-2843-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Peter Pauper Press

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp.

LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE

From the Llama Book series

Llamas, alpacas, and clones—oh my!

In this sequel to Llama Destroys the World (2019), hapless Llama once again wreaks unintentional, large-scale havoc—but this time, he (sort of) saves the day, too. After making an epic breakfast (and epic mess), Llama decides to build a machine that will enable him to avoid cleaning up. No, not a vacuum or dishwasher: It’s a machine that Llama uses to clone his friend “of impeccable tidiness,” Alpaca, in order to create an “army of cleaners.” Cream-colored Llama and light-brown Alpaca, both male, are pear shaped with short, stubby legs, bland expressions, and bulging eyes. Paired with the cartoon illustrations, the text’s comic timing shines: “Llama invited Alpaca over for lunch. / Llama invited Alpaca into the Replicator 3000. / And then, Llama invited disaster.” Soon the house is full of smiling Alpacas in purple scalloped aprons, single-mindedly cleaning—and, as one might expect, things don’t go as planned. Mealtimes (i.e. “second lunch” and dinner) offer opportunities for the “alpacalypse” to emerge from Llama’s house into the wider world. Everyday life grinds to a halt as the myriad Alpacas bearing mops, dusters, and plungers continue their cleaning crusade with no signs of stopping. That is, until the Alpacas realize they are hungry….It’s all very funny, but the sight of the paler-coated Llama exploiting the darker-coated Alpaca, for whom nothing brings “more joy than cleaning,” is an uncomfortable one.

For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22285-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups.

WOLF PUPS JOIN THE PACK

From the First Discoveries series

A photo album of young wolves running, playing, and growing through their first year.

Light on factual details, the uncredited text largely runs to vague observations along the lines of the fact that “young wolves need to rest every now and then” or that packs “differ in size. Some are large and have many wolves, while others are small with only a few.” The chief draws here are the big, color, stock photos, which show pups of diverse ages and species, singly or in groups—running, posing alertly with parents or other adult wolves, eating (regurgitated food only, and that not visible), howling, patrolling, and snoozing as a seasonal round turns green meadows to snowy landscapes. In a notably perfunctory insertion squeezed onto the final spread, a wildlife biologist from the American Museum of Natural History introduces himself and describes his research work—all with animals other than wolves. Budding naturalists should have no trouble running down more nourishing fare, from Seymour Simon’s Wolves (1993) to Jonathan London’s Seasons of Little Wolf (illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, 2014) and on. Baby Dolphin’s First Swim follows the same formula even down to profiling exactly the same wildlife biologist.

A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2237-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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