A sensitive topic swum with mindful strokes.

JAKE AND AVA

A BOY AND A FISH

A tale of two youngsters told with alternating human and fish points of view.

Balcombe’s insightful juxtaposition of two youthful experiences wades through an emotional journey of learning and compassion. At each turn, Balcombe’s approach compares the naïve assumptions of a young boy named Jake and a juvenile fish named Ava, finding opportunities to recognize similarities across diverse perspectives as their storylines converge and paths prepare to cross. Jake’s outing with his grandfather begins as his first fishing trip and a meaningful time for learning with an elder. That morning finds the young fish Ava also setting off, to catch insects with her uncle, and learning the techniques and hot spots just as Jake learns from Grandpa. When Jake worries about how the worm may feel, readers get a hint as to what may be on the horizon for Ava. The grandfather and child in the story both appear White, with no noted ethnic or racial identities. Evans’ richly hued watercolors evoke fluid movement and a vibrant natural landscape filled with wildlife. The expressive features bring these lives into focus, building to a sequence with Ava first vividly centered and then pulled into tension with Jake; a picture of a sorrowful Jake gazing at an equally distressed Ava, hanging from the hook across the gutter, says it all. Illustrations and story harmonize well, highlighting vulnerability and the importance of compassion, and an informative endnote quells concern over anthropomorphic storytelling.

A sensitive topic swum with mindful strokes. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-940719-46-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Gryphon Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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

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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