A quiet book that will stay with readers long after they have closed it.

TOWN IS BY THE SEA

The coal mines of Cape Breton in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia have closed, but this book recalls a time when generations of men toiled in the mines under the sea.

As the book starts, a white couple stands by the door. The woman holds her husband’s lunch pail as he gets ready to leave home. Upstairs, their son wakes up, and it is from him that readers will get to know his town and life by the sea, the repeated phrase “it goes like this—” lending the narrative a timeless quality. Both the text and the illustrations have a simple, understated quality that go hand in hand and lend a melancholic feel to the whole. A muted palette and images heavily outlined in black reinforce the feeling. As the boy goes about his life above—playing with his brown-skinned friend; coming home to a simple lunch; going to the store with a list for the grocer; or visiting his grandfather’s grave overlooking the sea—several predominantly black two-page spreads, vigorously textured strokes of black and gray adding weight, are woven into the narrative, reminding readers that deep down, the miners are digging for coal. A particularly poignant spread depicts the front door of the house in a wordless series, the angle of the sunlight showing time going by; in the last image the door is opening, and the narrator’s father is home at last.

A quiet book that will stay with readers long after they have closed it. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498-871-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A celebration of letters that gently gives young readers the knowledge and tools to share the love.

HOW TO SEND A HUG

Hugs are for everyone anytime they need a little extra love, but how can you hug a person who lives far away?

Talking on the phone or via computer isn’t enough, but luckily Artie shares a way to send a hug—by writing a letter. Infused with the love a hug carries, these step-by-step instructions begin with finding the right writing implement and paper and taking plenty of time for this important task. The story then follows the letter’s journey from the mail drop through a variety of possible transports (“by two legs and four legs, by four wheels and two wheels”) to the magic of delivery and the even greater joy of getting a reply. Readers as lucky as Artie will receive a return letter that carries the scent of its writer, like Grandma Gertie’s missive, filled with rose petals. Fun wording, like putting the letter in a “special jacket to keep it safe and warm” (an envelope), sticking “a ticket” on the envelope “in just the right spot” (a stamp), and the letter being picked up by a “Hug Delivery Specialist” (postal worker), adds humor, as does Artie’s ever present pet duck. Artie and Grandma Gertie present White; the postal workers and the other people depicted receiving letters throughout are racially and geographically diverse. The realistic illustrations in pencil, watercolor, and digital color expand the story and add a layer of love and humor. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A celebration of letters that gently gives young readers the knowledge and tools to share the love. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-30692-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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