Yank those plugs, everyone. Connect with family and friends instead.

DOT. UNPLUGGED

Deny devices, turn off, tune out. That’s the unsubtle message in this picture book.

It’s raining. Indoors, Dot and her bestie, Hal, are playing a video game. Dad’s at his computer; Mom’s at her circuit board. Suddenly, the power goes out. Mom remembers it’s the National Day of Unplugging, announcing this means using “Nothing that runs on anything but our good old imaginations.” When the family descends to the basement searching for something to do, Scratch the dog finds a spinner game. Each of its five segments bears a simple image representing a task a player must perform when the arrow they spin lands on it. Creative play ensues, and Dot concludes that “Unplugging is fun!” The story will work equally well as a lapsit or a read-aloud to a group. It’s OK the exhortation’s obvious; kids will get that there’s life beyond the plugged-in kind. The colorful, cartoon illustrations are flat, but faces are expressive (even the dog’s). Dot, with strangely slate-gray hair, is garbed in yellow boots and a pink, polka-dot dress. She and her mom have pale pink skin; Dad’s skin is light tan; Hal is brown-skinned. The final page informs readers that the National Day of Unplugging is the second Friday in March and lists 50 “unplugged” activities. Readers/listeners should be encouraged to suggest and engage in other device-free pursuits.

Yank those plugs, everyone. Connect with family and friends instead. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0983-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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The beauty and majesty of deciduous trees seem to bring out the philosopher in many authors, resulting in a wealth of...

THE LAST TREE

Chabbert imagines a world without trees—until friends discover a sapling.

This first-person narrative establishes the speaker as a grown-up remembering a story from his father’s youth, then describing his own. The elder man loved playing in the grass; Guridi’s field fills two thirds of the vertical space on the double-page spread. The verdant scene contrasts with the 13 green blades in the gray concrete jungle surrounding the son. It is a friend who shows him the young tree, doomed, it is revealed, due to the imminent construction of luxury condos. The boys rescue the tender growth, replanting it far away. Aspects of the charcoal, ink, gouache, pencil, and digital art are reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers’ work—the boys’ blue and orange silhouettes with large heads and slender bodies, the collage elements. Ultimately readers learn that “Years later…. / I had grown. / The tree had, too.” There is a clear message about the superiority of nature to the man-made, but the text sometimes seems aimed at adults more than children. The ending is confusing (the boys do not appear to have grown at all); it is neither logical nor very hopeful—there is only the one, titular, last tree.

The beauty and majesty of deciduous trees seem to bring out the philosopher in many authors, resulting in a wealth of options for exploring growth and environmental responsibility. This is not a first choice. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77138-728-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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WHO IS IN THE GARDEN?

Rosenberry's three recent books (Vera Runs Away, 2000, etc.) about an irrepressible little girl named Vera have an undeniable charm with a unique main character, believable illustrations, and strong plot lines. Unfortunately, Vera isn't present in this latest offering, replaced by a nameless little boy who lacks Vera's spunk, and in fact, lacks much personality at all. The boy tours his backyard garden, observing and describing ordinary animals and insects camouflaged in their own particular environments. On the last double-page spread (and on the cover), the boy himself is camouflaged in a pole tent of green bean vines, providing a mildly surprising answer to the question posed in the title. The uninspired text plods through the garden on flat feet, alternating between straightforward descriptions of the garden inhabitants and rather confusing second-person commands to continue exploring in different ways. Rosenberry plays with unusual perspectives in her illustrations, which result in the boy sometimes looking two feet tall and two years old. Her watercolors of flora and fauna are pretty, but the little boy's age, facial features, and hair are not uniform throughout the book. The boy also looks rather bored, an effect that is likely to be shared by children listening to this story. Wait for Vera's next adventure. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-8234-1529-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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