Shelve this bonbon with Edward Gorey.

OLD MISERY

A tale of trickery takes an extra left turn.

Old Misery is a small, stooped, elderly woman with bug eyes, skinny limbs, a granny cap, and bulbous jowls that don’t droop. She narrates: “Ain’t got two pennies to rub together. Ain’t got nothing except old Rutterkin here, and she’s about as worthless as a dog with fleas.” Rutterkin’s a black cat whose head and ears form a sideways crescent. But Old Misery has one other thing: an apple tree, perched atop an exaggeratedly steep hill. Ayto’s mostly black-and-white pencil drawings use lines ranging from severe and chaotic to gentle; gentlest are the fine, tiny, checkered crosshatchings that make up the hill and sky. Misery’s skin is the flat white of the paper; only the apples are red, emphasizing their centrality. The tree would feed Misery “if it weren’t for the wicked stealing”: Children, animals, and adults, including “the local vicar looking mighty wiffy-waffy,” all raid it. An archetypal stranger visits and grants a wish, allowing Misery to solve her apple problem creatively. When Mr. Death arrives, skull-faced, wearing a top hat and tails, can she best him too? Yes, but there’s a second twist, enacting sweet revenge in a way that’s totally accessible to the younger set.

Shelve this bonbon with Edward Gorey. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77138-823-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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