ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GARDEN

A young child copes with the fallout of her broken family in Buitrago and Yockteng’s (Walk with Me, 2017) latest collaboration.

Isabel and her father drive to the country. She hardly pays attention to his words on the way over. Dropped off at her grandmother’s house, she watches him leave. She observes her room that’s not her room. At night, Isabel lies in bed and remembers her dad and the city, when she notices an owl, a frog, and a mouse staring at her through the window. In such a case, “all you can do is open it and talk to them.” Buitrago’s translated text hides complexity beneath its directness, which is traced with humor and charm. Together the girl and creatures take a nighttime stroll. She feels the cool grass against her feet, while the owl names the flowers and the frog calls out the stars. The mouse just wants to eat. Slowly, Isabel opens up about her family, her absent mother and now her father, and the grandmother she barely knows. It’s a story in fragments. Yockteng’s textured digital pictures start as moody snapshots in dark blue ink with occasional flecks of color, mirroring the girl’s inner turmoil. More color creeps in as morning comes and the story nears its poignant finale. Grandmother, pale-skinned as her granddaughter and clad in work boots and jeans, waits by the door, ready to embrace Isabel. Her reassurances (“This is your house, too”) say it all.

Simply outstanding. (appendix) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-983-6

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.

HARDLY HAUNTED

What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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