With too much attention toward outward threats, the knight neglects to see those from within—a timeless message but also one...

READ REVIEW

THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK

A wall separates the two sides of a book. But what happens when there is danger on the side that’s supposed to be “safe?”

When a brick falls from the wall, a cheerful, ladder-carrying knight arrives to repair it from the verso side. On the other, recto side of the wall, a small team of angry-looking animals—a rhino, a tiger, and a gorilla—arrives to investigate. The brick wall straddles the book’s gutter from the ground at the very bottom of the spread and breaks the frame skyward, blocking those on each side from viewing the other. Using first-person narration, the knight tells readers that their side of the book is “safe” and that the other side is not. But, when the illustrations slowly reveal what lurks on the knight’s side, the knight’s theory doesn’t quite hold water. Or does it? Agee’s expert interplay between words and pictures invites readers to question the narrator’s reliability. Every illustration is a double-page spread (even the unfolded book jacket), and Agee’s signature washed-out color palette and expressive cartoon character designs shine. Animal and human characters alike break the fourth wall to communicate with readers through facial expressions, brilliantly accentuating the contradictory word-picture dynamic. The knight presents white.

With too much attention toward outward threats, the knight neglects to see those from within—a timeless message but also one that, in 2018, will surely strike a chord with many readers. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-55545-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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