Glints of potential elevate an otherwise derivative, digitally composed debut.

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BEYOND THE POND

Ernest D. transcends the ordinary by diving deep into his pond, encountering fantastic scenes that ultimately enhance his appreciation of home.

Determined, accompanied by his imperturbable terrier, Ernest D. dives down, “past the squid and sharks and shapeless / things, into his pond forever deep.” Kuefler’s digital images portray this backyard pond’s depths as the inky, lightless sea. Ernest D., sporting a vintage diver’s helmet, red flippers, and a knapsack full of supplies, emerges from the pond “on the other side”—a disjointed fantasy land populated by a baboon, dinosaurs, squirrels, stylized plant forms, and a bird that carries boy and dog aloft. This land’s not merely odd, but “ghoulish / and ghastly.” Bats, a spider, and a giant lend a temporary scariness to a few spreads, as Ernest D. bravely “battled and brawled / until the moon ducked low.” Surveying a dawn-pink, rainbow-and-koala–enhanced tableau, the boy reflects that “All this was hiding in a pond…. / How exceptional.” Diving home, he emerges back into a world that “looked a little less ordinary… / Beyond every street and silent corner was a place / unexplored.” The narrative, while occasionally evocative, renders Ernest D. as a contrivance rather than a compelling character. Spreads occasionally recall Jon Klassen’s technique and Irwin Hasen’s “Dondi” comic strips.

Glints of potential elevate an otherwise derivative, digitally composed debut. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236427-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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