Intuitive, inspired executions of art and verse perfectly capture the unending fun of time spent inside a box.

An ode to cardboard, four sides, and flaps both honors and alerts children to the pleasures it houses.

Jolly rhymes sing praise, perhaps prompting readers to look near their recycling bins for a fresh box. What else can be “a library, / palace, / or nook”? Add some dolls, and you've got a tea party. Paint a backdrop, and you're basking at the beach or sitting by a forest stream. Put simply, "A box! A box / is a wonder / indeed. / The only / such magic / that you'll / ever need." The succinct, straightforward simplicity of Yolen's singsong-y verse suits its subject: the everyday, plain-old, big-brown box. Sheban's inviting artwork, painted and drawn atop real corrugated and flat cardboard, makes clear the magic that happens when introducing imagination to an ordinary packing box. Warmth, depth, expanse, and humor all reside in his paintings, which show a red-haired white boy and dark-haired, slightly darker-skinned girl playing inside a box, their own illustrations and creativity at work. Sheban imbues the cardboard-box brown that covers and constitutes so much of these pictures with a honeyed amber that almost glows, especially alongside strokes of white acrylic paint that highlight each spread.

Intuitive, inspired executions of art and verse perfectly capture the unending fun of time spent inside a box. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56846-289-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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