Simply delectable!

READ REVIEW

OUR LITTLE KITCHEN

We come together to feed our own in this upbeat picture book.

Tamaki’s latest is a delight for the senses, bursting with bright colors, enticing scents, and effervescent prose. There’s not really a story here, nor much gastronomic wisdom—and that’s precisely the point. Instead, readers shadow a diverse group of people who come together every Wednesday to prepare a meal for their neighbors using whatever materials are at hand. Their garden is far from perfect, but it yields plenty of produce; leftovers and community contributions fill in the gaps. Whether donated, grown, or saved from the fridge, all foodstuffs are welcome—this is no place for premium ingredients or brand names! The kitchen’s warmth emanates not only from the oven, but from the cacophony of voices and cascade of culinary noises sustaining it. It’s a place for gratitude and camaraderie, not gripes and complaints—a disposition evident in Tamaki’s singsong, occasionally rhyming first-person plural prose. Onomatopoeic actions—“glug glug glug / CHOPCHOPCHOP / Sizzzzzzzzle”—and volunteers’ hearty exclamations pop in spreads characterized by Tamaki’s trademark fluidity and playfulness. Nib-and-ink linework swooshes across the pages, emulating the controlled frenzy and depicting a thoughtfully diverse cast of warmhearted people. Endpapers offer simple recipes for vegetable soup and apple crumble; adults familiar with Lucy Knisley and Samin Nosrat will swoon at the sight of these graphically rendered recipes. An author’s note explains the real-life experience that inspired the project. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 53% of actual size.)

Simply delectable! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4655-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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