THE KEEPER OF STARS

Some of the loftier themes may go over readers’ heads, but they’ll enjoy this journey through the cosmos nonetheless.

A bear in the heavens subs for a child’s father.

Each night, Milo reads stories with his mother and taps a photo of his dad three times. After his exhausted mom falls asleep, Milo hitches a ride on a fiery comet and cleans up the sky, which is filled with “balloons, stray feathers,” and, once, some “very unmanageable ducks.” Then Milo and the Keeper of Stars, a huge blue bear with a spangled coat, bathe and shine their five-pointed charges, who sometimes become a bit unruly. When Milo and the Keeper are done, they share sandwiches and cocoa and admire the sky. Returning home, Milo again taps his dad’s picture and gets into bed, knowing “the stars are always there…even when you can’t see them.” It’s never made explicitly clear where Milo’s father is, but the boy appears to be working his way through some complex emotions. This very subtle approach to a parent’s absence drags a bit in the middle, and little ones may not entirely understand how Milo’s devotion to star cleaning relates to his father. But the fantasy of floating out one’s window, soaring on a comet, and hanging out with a big guy in the sky is enthralling, sustained by the imaginative illustrations. Amid the colorful simplified characters, the bear is majestic. Milo and his mother are tan-skinned.

Some of the loftier themes may go over readers’ heads, but they’ll enjoy this journey through the cosmos nonetheless. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781771475686

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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

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

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