Viorst ably returns to the familiar trope of vanquishing childhood fears, nicely abetted by the talented Blackall.

AND TWO BOYS BOOED

A boy waits with increasing trepidation for his turn in the class talent show in this cumulative story.

He’s diligently practiced his song “a billion times” and wears his “lucky blue boots” and pants “with cool pockets.” (Blackall’s appealing illustrations cleverly incorporate flaps: Kids can check out the teeming contents of one of those pockets.) As, in succession, Chloe reads her poem, Henry walks on his hands, Georgia dances on her toes, Leo juggles, and Madeleine shows off her paintings, the young narrator grows ever more discombobulated, seeming to disappear into his yellow-striped sweater. He begins mixing up words: “On the talent of the morning show, I was ready to song my sing.” Uncertain as his turn arrives, he gets up and sits down repeatedly. Five double-page spreads depict his imagination’s chaotic fantasy, as he mentally mixes up talent-show props and activities and begins “walking my poem” and “dancing my hands.” Blackall clearly separates the realistic and fantasy elements—for the latter, she gives the boy blue pants and khaki-colored boots with pockets. When he finally manages to sing his song, “[t]wo boys booed. / But all the other kids were clapping!” The multiethnic classroom is adeptly managed by a sanguine teacher who keeps those two impish boys close by.

Viorst ably returns to the familiar trope of vanquishing childhood fears, nicely abetted by the talented Blackall. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-30302-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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