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

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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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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