A well-known Grimm’s fairy tale is given a playful new interpretation through rhyming couplets and appealing word pictures...

THE GOLDEN BALL

THE FAIRY TALE OF THE FROG PRINCE AND WHY THE PRINCESS KISSED HIM

In her children’s picture book, Sinclair turns a Brothers Grimm classic about a frog and a princess into playful poetry that begs to be read aloud.

In this engaging reinterpretation of the familiar Brothers Grimm fairy tale about an arrogant princess and a witch-cursed-prince-turned-amphibian, Sinclair uses rhyming iambic tetrameter couplets—“An infant princess once was born / Upon an early winter morn / So long ago and far away / Her name is lost to us today”—to tell the tale of enchantment, transformation and royal comeuppance. Sinclair manages the form evenly throughout, from the origins of the princess’ favorite toy (“Because he loved her most of all / The Sun gave her a golden ball”) to the extended happy ending—with the spell broken by a friendly kiss, the little princess and the restored prince, still children, become best friends. They play together, grow up “[a]nd as a happy consequence / They fell in love a few years hence.” In addition to introducing young readers to a classic form of poetry, Sinclair stretches their imaginations through her choice of vocabulary—the princess has a “voracious” appetite, she’s “consumed” by fear, the wily frog prince plots to “contrive” a meeting—adding interest through words and context. Visually, the tale’s characters are represented as simplistic cartoon figures, but the serviceable illustrations feature a variety of scenic backdrops, playing with textures and suggesting varied watercolor and cutout effects. Sinclair helpfully includes a “How to Read this Book Aloud” page of instructions in the back of the book, encouraging readers to enjoy the rhythmic pattern of the text.

A well-known Grimm’s fairy tale is given a playful new interpretation through rhyming couplets and appealing word pictures in this charming read-aloud, read-along book for ages 5 to 9.

Pub Date: July 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1937186005

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chthonicity

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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