PEPPER ZHANG, ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE! by Jerry Zhang

PEPPER ZHANG, ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE!

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A rambunctious 3-year-old Asian girl whose artwork gains acclaim gets a big head—literally—in this children’s picture book.

Pepper Zhang is enjoying the day of her third birthday so much that she just doesn’t want to go to bed, so she throws a giant tantrum. But then she catches sight of the one birthday gift she hasn’t played with yet: a paint box and easel. Pepper paints angry, broad-stroked red swirls that reflect her big emotions in a work she titles “Red Dino Destroys Bedtime!” (A nice touch is illustrator Hautéa’s “artist’s interpretation” of Pepper’s abstract swirls.) As time goes on, Pepper paints more pictures and has fewer tantrums. Her bedroom becomes a private art gallery that becomes famous, Pepper’s fans proclaiming her to be an “Artist Extraordinaire!” But as Pepper’s fame grows, so does her head, until it’s so large that it interferes with her painting. Pepper decides to close her gallery, take a break from being famous, and focus on being a normal 3-year-old. Be reassured, though: “We have a feeling she’ll be making a comeback!” It’s hard to find picture books featuring contemporary Asian children in the United States, so with the delightful Pepper, debut author Zhang helps fill a gap. Pepper’s parents respect her outsized emotions and personality while gently helping her grow up—a good balance. Hautéa’s illustrations are well-suited for the subject with their bright colors, playful style, and well-observed details.

Colorful, amusing, and well-told with text and illustrations working perfectly together.

Publisher: Little Ning Books, LLC
Program: Kirkus Indie
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