LONG AGO, ON A SILENT NIGHT

Parallel stories in verse and image connect a contemporary child’s arrival with that of the Christ child.

Berry’s debut picture-book text offers readers moving, graceful verse in the voice of a present-day new parent linking the birth of a child with Jesus’ birth. “Hoof and feather, hide and beak— / Some say the animals began to speak / Their love for the child. Could it be true? // We will whisper our love for you,” reads the verse, with accompanying digital illustrations casting the same baby and parents both in modern times and in the “long ago” biblical era. The pages are busy, sprinkled with lots of extra stars, and some of the imagery is downright mystifying—why is there a city perched on the baby’s head? But in a refreshing turn (as compared to many Nativity picture books), family members are depicted as people of color. The father has brown skin and Afro-textured, black hair while mother and baby have brown, wavy hair, and light-brown complexions. The contemporary setting is urban, and at the book’s end, historical and modern worlds merge in Won’s illustration depicting the Wise Men seeking directions from police officers in front of brownstones and a camel hitched to a fire hydrant. While the art style can seem labored or even at odds with the spare, elegant text, this is a picture book that many will cherish as part of holiday traditions.

Joyful, joyful. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-27772-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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