Alvarez and Field’s remarkable synthesis of word and image here makes for a seamless, powerfully evocative contemplation of...

WHERE DO THEY GO?

Two gifted Vermonters join forces to tackle the mysteries of death head-on.

A timeless question asked by children and adults alike brings together the voluminous talents of novelist, poet, and children’s author Alvarez and renowned woodblock artist Field. In this spare, rhymed poem, “Where do they go?” is the driving query of those left wondering and reckoning with loss “when somebody dies”: “Who can I ask? / Does anyone know? // Do they go where the wind goes / when it blows? // Do they fall with the rain / from the sky? / Are they my tears / when I cry?” Field’s visibly textured prints portray the bereaved here as, mostly, grade school–aged children of different races, allowing readers everywhere to relate. Especially moving are Field’s depictions of the departed in near-featureless blank white or black profile, vividly contrasting with the colorful, animated children longing to fill the absence of the missing loved ones. The text is laid out over and around the illustrations; calming horizontal lines of text and image complement one another on some pages, while on others the text is actively incorporated into the pictures. Without ever venturing an explicit explanation, Alvarez offers many tempting suggestions for those adapting to what remains and posits a wonderfully calming conclusion to a “small puzzle” that can sometimes prove large enough to unmoor those beset by loss of a loved one, especially for the first time.

Alvarez and Field’s remarkable synthesis of word and image here makes for a seamless, powerfully evocative contemplation of grief. (Picture book/poetry. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60980-670-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text.

KINDNESS GROWS

Rhyming verses about kindness using a consistent metaphor of widening cracks versus blooming plants are amplified by cutouts on each page.

The art and layout are spectacular, from the cover through the double-page spreads near the end. Racially diverse toddlers are shown engaging in various moods and behaviors, some of which create unhappiness and some of which lead to friendship and happiness. Every page’s color palette and composition perfectly complement the narrative. The initial verso shows two children in aggressive stances, backgrounded by a dark, partly moonlit sky. Between them is a slender, crooked cutout. The large-type text reads: “It all / starts / with a / crack / that we can hardly see. / It happens when we shout / or if we disagree.” The recto shows two children in sunlight, with one offering a pretty leaf to the other, and the rhyme addresses the good that grows from kindness. In this image, the crooked die cut forms the trunk of a tiny sapling. Until the final double-page spreads, the art follows this clever setup: dark deeds and a crack on the left, and good deeds and a growing tree on the right. Unfortunately, the text is far from the equal of the art: It is banal and preachy, and it does not even scan well without some effort on the part of whomever is reading it. Still, the youngest children will solemnly agree with the do’s and don’ts, and they may decide to memorize a page or two.

Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-229-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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