An intriguing episode of colliding worlds.

THE LITTLE OWL & THE BIG TREE

A CHRISTMAS STORY

This true story follows a tiny owl whose home becomes the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

She is a northern saw-whet owl, a nameless wild animal, so tiny that “it’s doubtful anybody knew she existed.” She sleeps by day and hunts by night, alone and peaceful—until one day the sounds of voices and power tools awaken her. Her tree moves. It shakes. It falls down. It is wrapped, loaded onto a truck, and driven for hours down a noisy highway. When the truck stops, there are new sounds, and when the tree is unwrapped, the owl comes out of her hole, tired and hungry from three days without food. She is found and brought to a wildlife rescue center, where she is nursed back to health. Meanwhile, her tree is decked with lights and put up in New York City. The owl is now famous, and she has been named Rockefeller—but of course she doesn’t know about that. When she is well, she is released into the wild. Jeanette Winter’s signature illustrations center the owl and her natural habitat even as the text straddles the human perspective on the owl’s world in a way that makes each strange to the other. This story poses as many questions as it answers, leaving readers to discuss and wonder at the relation of wilderness to civilization. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An intriguing episode of colliding worlds. (author's note) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A $16.99 Mother’s Day card for cat lovers.

MOMMIES ARE AMAZING

The team of Costain and Lovšin (Daddies are Awesome, 2016) gives moms their due.

Rhyming verses tell of all the ways moms are amazing: “Mommies are magic. / They kiss away troubles… // …find gold in the sunlight / and rainbows in bubbles.” Moms are joyful—the best playmates. They are also fearless and will protect and soothe if you are scared. Clever moms know just what to do when you’re sad, sporty moms run and leap and climb, while tender moms cuddle. “My mommy’s so special. / I tell her each day… // … just how much I love her / in every way!” Whereas dads were illustrated with playful pups and grown-up dogs in the previous book, moms are shown as cats with their kittens in myriad colors, sizes, and breeds. Lovšin’s cats look as though they are smiling at each other in their fun, though several spreads are distractingly cut in half by the gutter. However delightful the presentation—the verse rolls fairly smoothly, and the cats are pretty cute—the overall effect is akin to a cream puff’s: very sweet and insubstantial.

A $16.99 Mother’s Day card for cat lovers. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-651-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A feast…at least for the eyes, and much better for the teeth.

BAKE A RAINBOW CAKE!

It’s all about the colors in this board-book version of the virally popular “rainbow explosion” cake.

The cake, which stars in many online videos and slide shows, is actually all about the sprinkles, evoked here with a combination of multihued spinners or sliders and hundreds of tiny holes punched into the sturdy cover and stock. Kassem, a New York City specialist baker, recaps its creation…without specific ingredients but step by step in the simplest language: “Pour it! / Mix it! // Color it!” The images are abstract enough that the result never really looks like food, but young digerati are unlikely to care as they’re directed to choose colors for each of the six layers, pull a tab to watch them rise in the oven, then see all but the top layer hollowed out before being stacked in rainbow order (sans indigo) and finally filled with a column of sprinkles that will pour out in a climactic rush (“Surprise!”) when the finished cake, its outside likewise sprinkle encrusted, is sliced. Chavarri’s simple illustrations flash with oversaturated hues, each succeeding double-page spread being somehow brighter than the last one, until the final uncomplicated pop-up unfolds in a grand shower of confetti and sprinkles. Budding chefs may find the recipe-based approach in Lotta Niemenen’s Cook in a Book series more to their taste, but for sheer energy and dazzle, this is hard to beat.

A feast…at least for the eyes, and much better for the teeth. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3746-6

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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