GOOD NIGHT, GARDEN GNOME

This essentially wordless (“Good night, Garden Gnome” is the full extent of text) picture book spices its simple flavor of fantasy with the ever-so-uneasy strangeness radiated by an ordinary garden gnome. The story opens with a young girl squiring her dolls and stuffed animals about the yard in a red wagon. One of the characters in the wagon is a garden gnome of the long-beard-and-Alpine-garb persuasion. It is his vacant stare that gives off the spooky edge, though he seems a jolly enough sort and no stiffer or less lifelike than the others. When it is time for the girl to go in for the night, she leaves the gnome outside, at which point he comes to life—eyes still vacant—to do his evening’s work. Here he’s much more accomplished than the creature she’s dumped into the birdbath or dressed up in doll clothes. He’s guarding the garden against slugs, helping to feed the rabbits and birds, warding off the cat, communing with the mice and turtles as the sun rises. Then he returns to the little girl one of the stuffed animals left behind the night before. There is even a little bit of adventure when a dog almost buries the gnome, but all comes out right in this gentle salute to the imagination, elegantly caught from the gnome’s-eye view in the saturated colors of the evening. Who knew they had it in them? (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2531-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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Stronger bedtime and alien books abound in the universe of children’s literature.

OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE

A melding of fact and fiction strives to present a bedtime lesson on the solar system.

Two earthling children drift off to sleep as the book opens, and successive spreads describe the bedtime routines of sleepy little extraterrestrials on Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Endpapers underscore the title’s reference to a “race” by depicting the planets as first-through-ninth–place medals according to their respective distances from the sun. This seems to refer more to solar years instead of days with regard to the measurement of the time (how long it takes to travel around the sun, versus how long it takes for a day to pass), which muddies the bedtime theme a bit. After all, planetary days are dictated by rotation and vary in length without necessarily corresponding to the annual “race” around the sun. Backmatter entitled “Sleepy Bedtime Planet Factoids” help to ground the text in scientific facts about the planets, but this can’t fully mitigate how stumbling rhymes and twee wordplay grate—“Uranus is a gassy place. / They sleep with masks stuck to each face.” Won’s digital artwork has a retro sensibility. An isolated inclusion of a brown-skinned boy on the second spread smacks of tokenism, since all other representations of human children depict the same Caucasian boys (the children of Neptune display more diversity by comparison).

Stronger bedtime and alien books abound in the universe of children’s literature. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38647-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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A peaceful, wordless adventure that, as the final frames hint, will continue after it’s closed.

RED AGAIN

Through a magical book, two faraway children meet.

This wordless picture book picks up directly where The Red Book (2004) left off: the third illustration in this is almost identical to the last one in the previous, with a tiny smile added. This time, a black child wearing a blue hoodie and glasses is the finder of the titular red book. The child bikes home through city snow and climbs the stairs of a quirky, cupola-topped house. Opened, the red book’s pages feature increasing close-ups that reveal a beige-skinned child in a fishing boat afloat off a faraway island. That child pulls in a similar red book from the sea and opens it to see the bespectacled city kid back at home. They’re looking at each other! Wordlessly, they form a mutual fondness. The kid in the boat finds an ingenious way to cross the world to their new friend—not through the book (it’s not that kind of magic) but, delightfully, towed by a pelican. There’s sadness and doubt during a brief period when the kids can’t see each other, and then there’s joy. Lehman’s illustrations are structured like comic panels, varying in size and shape and surrounded by white space; in watercolor, gouache, and ink she shows figures and landscapes with gentle textures and neat black outlines.

A peaceful, wordless adventure that, as the final frames hint, will continue after it’s closed. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-81859-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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