I FOUND HOPE IN A CHERRY TREE

An ode to solitude and nature, this picture book provides comforting certitude in current times of uncertainty.

A child and a cat experience solace, joy, and wonder while exploring the natural world.

Starting inside a country house and then venturing out into a snowy landscape, a child with straight, black hair and pale skin and a playful cat observe and reflect upon the simple, ever evolving pleasures of the natural world. Eyes can behold mischievous shadows created by the sun, ears can hear the stories carried in the wind, tongues can taste soft, sweet clouds, and best of all, there’s the hopeful promise of spring in the buds on the shivering cherry-tree branches. Each of the four parts of the poetic, first-person narrative is a bite-sized reminder that even scary or dismal things, like wind that howls like wolves or icy, sharp snowflakes, contain hope and joy. Visual and textual motifs are woven throughout, building to the reassuring and gratifying conclusion featuring the child and cat amid a shower of cherry blossoms. There’s comfort in steady, sure things, like the constant presence of the sun and the cyclical nature of the seasons. Textured canvases overlaid with soft pastels and cool earth tones create a dreamy, tranquil atmosphere, mirroring the quiet wonder of the text. Compositions are grounded by expertly placed shapes and lines, moving the eye through the scene in a peaceful, steady manner. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.9-by-21.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15.4% of actual size.)

An ode to solitude and nature, this picture book provides comforting certitude in current times of uncertainty. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-220-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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