Barclay ably captures the affection of the central relationship, though, and the ending is a genuine surprise. Heartwarming.

READ REVIEW

JOJO THE GIANT

Could little JoJo possibly win the big race?

His mother, who works very hard as a mail carrier, always tells him that "Good things come in small packages." But JoJo isn't so sure. So, he's careful to eat all his broccoli and drink his milk. JoJo has big dreams, and he wonders if he'll ever achieve them. Bullies on the corner tease him about his size, calling him a "runaway shrimp!" When Smiling Sam's Shoe Shop sponsors a big race, JoJo obsesses over the prize: a pair of red Rocket Racers. JoJo's mother worries about how desperately he wants them; though well-worn, her plain brown shoes have lasted for years. At the race, a very tall boy named Tony hams it up for reporters. The starting gun's fired; the runners are off in a blur of arms and legs. JoJo keeps up with Tony; the bullies in the stands taunt him with, "Go, Shrimp! Go!" It's a sentiment that Tony laughingly echoes—just the incentive JoJo needs for a final burst of race-winning energy. He gives the shoes to his mother, who really needs them. Melo's acrylics are bright and at their most interesting in those scenes when she plays with perspective—alas, not often enough.

Barclay ably captures the affection of the central relationship, though, and the ending is a genuine surprise. Heartwarming. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-88776-976-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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