An engaging, well-illustrated invitation to look at the world from a different—and higher—angle.

THE ADVENTURES OF LEONARDO THE DRONE

BOOK 1: PHOTOS FROM THE SKY

A young girl discovers how a drone can enhance her photography skills in this series-starting picture book by debut author Purdy and illustrator Rodella-Purdy (The Little Gray Squirrel, 2019, etc.).

Leah is frustrated that she can’t seem to win the monthly photo contest at her local library. She loves finding new and different angles to capture images. Inspired by flying birds, she attempts to take pictures of things from above, using a number of tools with underwhelming results, before she buys a drone. She names it “Leonardo,” after Leonardo da Vinci, and experiments with flying it until she becomes confident in her skills. She then selects her favorite new drone-assisted photo for the contest. Readers will be unsurprised by Leah’s victory, but parents are more likely to appreciate how Leah devotes herself to practicing her craft. Purdy’s present-tense narration lends immediacy to Leah’s experiments, and the straightforward vocabulary and sentence structure will encourage independent reading. Rodella-Purdy’s cartoonlike digital images effectively capture Leah’s inventive problem-solving paired with her successful and failed photos. QR codes (not tested) offer readers a chance to see more drone photos online. A text introduction to drone technology is included at the end of the book.

An engaging, well-illustrated invitation to look at the world from a different—and higher—angle.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9996842-4-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Creative Cat Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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