THE SHARED ROOM

Comforting for readers who have suffered the tragic death of a sibling or young friend.

A family grieving their child’s loss finds peace.

A family in St. Paul, Minnesota, suffered the wrenching loss of their older daughter seven months previously, when she accidentally drowned at a public swimming area. Ever since, quiet has settled over the household. The family struggles to cope: The parents find solace in the girl’s bedroom, imbibing their daughter’s lingering scent. Occasionally, the family watches videos of the girl. Then the mother asks her older son, who shares his younger brother’s bedroom, if he wants for himself his deceased sister’s room. He does but is confused about where he will sleep and store his belongings. With fresh bed linens and his sister’s clothes removed, the boy readily falls asleep in his new surroundings. The family feels comforted, an ending that is rushed and unconvincing. This story about a child’s death is understandably sobering but is also coolly distancing except for a painful scene in which the older son expresses pent-up emotions and sobs; the accompanying illustration is heart-rending. The narrative is written sparingly, with concrete details lending specificity. Apart from the aforementioned artwork, the delicate illustrations are serviceable and static. This Hmong-authored and -illustrated book places at its center a Hmong American family, giving children in an underrepresented community a valuable mirror. At the same time, both text and illustrations leave room for readers from many backgrounds to find themselves in the story.

Comforting for readers who have suffered the tragic death of a sibling or young friend. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0794-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

LOLA AND THE TROLL

Too idealistic by half.

A group of kids take a troll to task.

A troll named Tom lives in Lola’s neighborhood. In Rodriguez’s delicate artwork, he’s tall and bizarre looking, with party hats for ears and oven mitts over his hands, and as kids walk past, he holds up signs plastered with insulting messages tailored to what he sees. No one likes the troll, but his comments cut. Most try to avoid Tom, but a light-skinned girl named Lola takes the messages to heart and slowly changes herself in an attempt to avoid criticism. After Lola has a heartfelt conversation with a bookstore owner about how bullies are the ones who are really afraid, she and the other kids stand up to the troll, revealed to be a short, light-skinned boy who’s “new to this neighborhood” and “just wanted…attention.” Many pages are crammed full of text, and one central metaphor feels overexplained as Lola describes herself as “tall on the inside,” which is apparently “what counts.” This story attempts to deliver an old-fashioned message about bullying through the modern concept of an internet troll, but neither element works especially well in this earnest text that naïvely imagines that all conflicts can be resolved through conversation and that trolls can be scared away through honesty and confidence.

Too idealistic by half. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780593527634

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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