THE MONSTER WHO ATE DARKNESS

Though bedroom monsters are a dime a dozen, this one’s a bit different. Looking like a black wombat with a bright-red clown nose, the Creature that lurks under wakeful young Jo-Jo’s bed is but the size of an ant. A hungry one, however, who starts absorbing all the darkness it can find. Going the “Fat Cat” route, the monster proceeds to swell as it sucks the dark not just from the bedroom but from the entire world and beyond—leaving confusion and dismay in its wake, until “There were no shadows and hardly any dreams. There was only the light. The stark and staring light.” Liao, a popular Taiwanese illustrator, creates polished, sometimes wordless cartoon scenes featuring a monster whose only scary characteristic is its eventual humongous size. Ultimately Jo-Jo’s tears draw the behemoth back to Earth, where a cuddle and a “darkness lullaby” puts them both to sleep and allows all the darkness to leach back into the universe. Not exactly entropy in action, but a cozy, if lengthy, bedtime tale nonetheless. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3859-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

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For places where the first-grade shelves are particularly thin.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF FIRST GRADE

The traditional song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets a school makeover as readers follow a cheery narrator through the first 12 days of first grade.

“On the first day of first grade / I had fun right away // laughing and learning all day!” In these first two spreads, Jennings shows the child, who has brown skin and a cloud of dark-brown hair, entering the schoolyard with a diverse array of classmates and settling in. In the backgrounds, caregivers, including a woman in hijab, stand at the fence and kids hang things on hooks in the back of the room. Each new day sees the child and their friends enjoying new things, previous days’ activities repeated in the verses each time so that those listening will soon be chiming in. The child helps in the classroom, checks out books from the library, plants seeds, practices telling time and counting money, leads the line, performs in a play, shows off a picture of their pet bunny, and does activities in gym, music, and art classes. The Photoshop-and-watercolor illustrations portray adorable and engaged kids having fun while learning with friends. But while the song and topic are the same, this doesn’t come close to touching either the hysterical visuals or great rhythm of Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003).

For places where the first-grade shelves are particularly thin. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266851-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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It’s pretty to look at, but it’s too generic to be an essential addition to an autumnal-themed book collection.

OAK LEAF

Autumn’s arrival sends an oak leaf on a windswept adventure against dappled, pointillist-style paintings.

A leaf appears, distinct and crisp against the gauzy background. It’s an eye-catching burst of gold and umber that contrasts with the lovely, if unexpectedly spring-y, Monet-inspired pastel colors. As the text catalogs the leaf’s travels through settings both natural (“over freezing lake waters”) and built (blown about by a freight train), it’s odd that there are so few autumnal references. Some of the leaf’s adventures, such as wafting through a vividly crimson maple tree or glimpsing geese migrating, are topically seasonal, but others, like a visit to a calf or a momma fox, don’t feel as germane. As the oak leaf floats lower over the city, it’s caught and pressed in a book by a white girl, a pleasant conclusion that gives the leaf’s journey a feeling of completion, though the ending is hampered slightly by the child’s somewhat unfinished-looking face—the illustrator is clearly more adept at capturing sweeping natural scenes than portraits. Written with a quiet poeticism, concise lines such as “Up through the mist, away from the earth, up” establish a pensive tone that neatly matches the quiet tale, though the text isn’t exactly bursting with personality either.

It’s pretty to look at, but it’s too generic to be an essential addition to an autumnal-themed book collection. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944903-73-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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