A moving and meaningful way to talk about a situation many families will face.

THE REMEMBER BALLOONS

Every few years a new picture book takes on the subject of dementia and memory loss; this is that title for 2018.

Not since Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas (1984), has the topic been handled with such gentle compassion, using the metaphor of memory-filled balloons to explore it. Explaining a confounding disease to young children is difficult, and the notion of the titular balloons is initially confusing. As the story—and the disease as it manifests in the narrator’s grandfather—progresses, the idea of storing memories in balloons is increasingly effective. Children understand the ephemeral nature of balloons. Gray-toned line drawings quietly convey James and Grandpa’s loving relationship even as Grandpa is beginning to forget the details of his life. The brightly colored balloons stand out against the white background in stark contrast to Grandpa’s fading memory. Placing the memory vignettes in full-page tinted balloons helps clarify their position in the story and makes this abstract metaphor more concrete for young readers. Both Grandpa and Dad have curly hair and dark skin, and Mom is white. Biracial James and Grandpa’s shared heritage and stories of their loving family shine. What is clear is that their memories matter—to them and ultimately to readers.

A moving and meaningful way to talk about a situation many families will face. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8915-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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WE ARE IN A BOOK!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Stalwart friends Piggie and Gerald the elephant push the metafictive envelope in a big way when they realize that "someone is looking at us." Is it a monster? worries Gerald. "No," replies the squinting Piggie. "It is... / a reader! / A reader is reading us!" How? wonders Gerald. Piggie drapes herself on a word bubble to demonstrate: "We are in a book!" "THAT IS SO COOL!" Joy leads to a little bit of clever practical joking—Piggie figures out how to make the readers say "banana" out loud, and hilarity ensues—which gives way to existential angst: "The book ends?!" exclaims an appalled Gerald. Emergent readers just beginning to grapple one-on-one with the rules of the printed codex will find the friends' antics both funny and provocative: Just who is in control here, anyway? As always, Willems displays his customary control of both body language and pacing even as he challenges his readers to engage with his characters and the physicality of their book . The friends' solution to the book's imminent end? "Hello. Will you please read us again?" You bet. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3308-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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