Poor execution sinks a clever concept.



Bailly’s illustrations and some unusual formatting take a seemingly ordinary outing in surprising directions in this import from France.

Thomas enjoys a vacation trip with his parents beneath a sunny blue sky to an uncrowded beach in the serigraphic-style pictures—until, becoming a bit bored, he wanders off. When the sun begins to go down he anxiously searches for his parents but finds only a book on the ground. That book, smaller in trim size and mounted on the next page, contains the same narrative, word for word…but the locale has shifted to snowy ski slopes and woods. There’s another, yet smaller, book at the end of that version with, again, the same text but a radically different setting: the moon (presumably, as the Earth is visible overhead in one view). Such tweaking of readers’ expectations is, as always, a fun game, but here the conceit works far better in the first two go-rounds than the third, as it’s hard to square the observation that “The air is so clear / The sky so blue” with all the helmeted, vacuum-suited figures strolling over the rocky moonscape, and the book at the end is not “on the ground” as described but actually floating in some sort of large tunnel. In any event, notwithstanding a false promise on the rear cover of at least a fourth iteration, all ends happily as the errant lad’s parents reappear with the next page turn (and the next, and the next) to take him home. Thomas and most of the other humans present as white, but there are a few apparent people of color in crowd scenes.

Poor execution sinks a clever concept. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4243-0

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.


The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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From the Égalité series

A timely look at self-expression.

Kindergarten-age Ben paints his fingernails because he loves their colorful appeal. Unfortunately, not everyone does. While walking to school one morning, Ben is harassed by two other boys: “Painting your nails is for girls. You’re a girl! You’re a girl!” Ben initially internalizes the negative feelings but eventually tells his parents. Although Ben’s father shows solidarity by painting his nails as well, this does not stop the bullying. Ben sadly kowtows to gender conformity and paints his nails only on the weekend, although his father continues to pick him up after school with painted nails. On Ben’s birthday, his entire class surprises him with painted nails, and at recess, they do it again. End of story! Educators and caregivers should prepare themselves for the barrage of logical questions that are sure to follow: Why didn’t Ben’s parents talk to his teacher about the bullying? What happened the next day? Did the bullies learn anything? Books about gender nonconformity are needed, as are titles that celebrate general messages of acceptance, but this story is too superficial and the ending too slapdash to be worth the attention. Gusti’s illustrations, which echo the stylings of Jules Pfeiffer, do little to enhance the text. Most characters appear white, while darker-skinned characters are reduced to background filler only. The book is also available in Spanish.

Skip it. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-84-17123-59-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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