IN ENGLISH, OF COURSE

A plucky small girl in a new classroom manages to tell a story in English, even though it isn’t quite the one she intended. It’s 1955: Josephine’s teacher asks each student to tell a bit about themselves and where they are from. She listens carefully to Ling-Li and to Juan, but although she understands a lot of English, she’s not sure she has all the words she needs. When she tells the class she is from Napoli, Italia, her teacher asks if she lived on a farm, and she replies, “I go to farm one time.” From this single visit, with coaching from her teacher, Josephine reconstructs being kicked by a cow, and the cow pushed by a pig, into a river, and her getting them both out of the water. Josephine’s inventive dialogue captures the sound of a person searching for the shape of the right English word, and her success spurs her to go home to ask her parents how to say “Roman ruins” and “architectural engineers”—in English, of course. Ziborova’s (Crispin the Turtle, not reviewed) exuberant cut-paper and mixed-media collages are a fine foil for the text: Josephine’s elegant male teacher wears pinstripes; pictures and sketches of Naples float over architectural diagrams, and the cow and the pig have comically exaggerated features. Josephine herself wears a ’50s schoolgirl suit and a beret, and her quicksilver expressions might remind one of the illimitable Eloise. An author’s postscript relates Josephine’s story to the author’s own life as a child in Little Italy in the Bronx, but any child will respond to the joy of Josephine’s storytelling. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-940112-07-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Gingerbread House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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