Lovely to gaze upon and offering characters with promise, but the story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

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LION, KING, AND COIN

From the Tradewinds series

Nam presents a fleeting, exotic introduction to the invention of coinage.

Young Laos lives in Sardis in the ancient kingdom of Lydia (today’s western Turkey), nearby the river of gold: Pactolus. Laos comes from a family of traders and goldsmiths, the gold panned in plenty from the sands of the Pactolus River. Indeed, so bountiful is the Pactolus that the legend of King Midas was minted along its banks. As the city is a great marketplace, the people of Sardis understand the vexations of barter as a system of exchange. Laos is drawn by Sforza with pale skin, a shock of black hair, and glistening eyes, his elders bearded (some bald, others hatted, few women), with settings that capture the feeling of ancient wall murals. He relays that the merchants need to simplify their transactions: it needs to be something light that won’t rot. Maybe gold or silver? They send these ideas to the king for consideration. The king creates a coin stamped with the titular lion and declares it currency. That’s rather neat and tidy, a gold mine for “how”s and “why”s of the dismal science that are left unanswered. A long supplementary author’s note testifies to the story’s lacunae.

Lovely to gaze upon and offering characters with promise, but the story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. (glossary, timeline) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5475-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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THE SNOWY NAP

A hedgehog tries to stay awake for winter.

It’s almost time to hibernate, and Hedgie means to. But as he sniffs the chilly wind, farmyard animals taunt him about what he’ll miss. The hens’ coop will be “bedazzled by icicles”; the geese will joyfully “slip and slide across the pond ice”; the pony will pull a sleigh; snowflakes will fall, no two alike. The animals heckling Hedgie—hens, geese, sheep, pigs, a billy goat, a pony—are drawn with fine lines, hatchings, and textures. Because their faces are mostly realistic with only faint hints of anthropomorphism, their needling is subtle; some readers may hear their points as merely informative. Either way, Hedgie’s seized by FOMO: He decides to stay awake. When he accidentally nods off, farm girl Lisa brings him indoors and places him in a tea cozy on a windowsill. Nature will eventually run its course, but not before Hedgie finally glimpses “flowers of frost decorating his window,” the chicken coop “sparkl[ing] like a palace,” and Lisa pond-sliding with the geese. Brett’s watercolor-and-gouache illustrations feature both soft and bright colors, with fine lines and copious textures to peruse; the borders are characteristically fussy (braided yarn, pinking-shears edging, oval insets) but not distractingly so. Between the opulent farmhouse with decorative plates on the walls, the sleigh with sleigh bells, and the lack of adults, combined with a comfortably heated interior, this is a winter idyll. Lisa presents white.

Amiable. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17073-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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