Lovely—but it requires patience, just like its protagonist


Grandmother Thorn has spent years perfecting her beloved garden, but a new plant, a gift from a friend, threatens its harmony.

Grandmother Thorn lives alone in Shizuka Village, apparently in Japan. Every day she meticulously cares for her garden and its pebbled paths, shunning visitors and shooing birds away from her trees. Neighbors fear her, but she always shows kindness to her old friend, Ojiisan, despite the fact that his crooked foot disrupts her precious paths. When a merchant brings an unusual type of berry to market, Ojiisan pays the merchant to take some to Grandmother Thorn. The merchant unwisely picks one perfect flower. Enraged, Grandmother Thorn chases him away and he drops the berries—one of which soon sprouts into a renegade plant. Her intense anger at this makes her so sick she must stay at the home of her niece until the following spring. When Ojiisan goes to walk her home, he gives her a box of berries. They are delicious—the fruit of the persistent weed. Grandmother Thorn understands that she has finally found something as stubborn as herself. Although Howes’ protagonist learns a good lesson, she is not particularly likable to that point, and the stern faces of Hahn’s characters could be disconcerting to the book’s young audience. Her pattern-filled, hand-collage illustrations incorporate fabric, wood, and paint, their thick outlines and stable compositions imparting a sense of peace to Grandmother Thorn’s garden.

Lovely—but it requires patience, just like its protagonist . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9913866-9-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Ripple Grove

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Outstanding—a breath of fresh air, just like Rocket herself.


Rocket is on a mission…to get her angst-y teen brother to put down his cellphone and look up.

An aspiring astronaut, Rocket makes it a point to set up her telescope and gaze at the stars every night before bedtime. Inspired by Mae Jemison, Rocket, a supercute black girl with braids and a coiffed Afro, hopes to be “the greatest astronaut, star catcher, and space walker who has ever lived.” As the night of the Phoenix meteor shower approaches, Rocket makes fliers inviting everyone in her neighborhood to see the cosmic event at the park. Over the course of her preparations, she shares information about space-shuttle missions, what causes a meteor shower, and when is the best time to see one. Jamal, Rocket’s insufferable older brother, who sports a high-top fade and a hoodie, is completely engrossed in his phone, even as just about everybody in the neighborhood turns up. The bright, digital illustrations are an exuberant celebration of both space and black culture that will simultaneously inspire and ground readers. That the main characters are unapologetically black is made plain through myriad details. Rocket’s mother is depicted cornrowing her daughter’s hair with a wide-toothed comb and hair oil. Gap-toothed Rocket, meanwhile, makes her enthusiasm for space clear in the orange jumpsuit both she and her cat wear—and even Jamal’s excited by the end.

Outstanding—a breath of fresh air, just like Rocket herself. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9442-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the...


Rhymed couplets convey the story of a girl who likes to build things but is shy about it. Neither the poetry nor Rosie’s projects always work well.

Rosie picks up trash and oddments where she finds them, stashing them in her attic room to work on at night. Once, she made a hat for her favorite zookeeper uncle to keep pythons away, and he laughed so hard that she never made anything publicly again. But when her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and reminds Rosie of her own past building airplanes, she expresses her regret that she still has not had the chance to fly. Great-great-aunt Rose is visibly modeled on Rosie the Riveter, the iconic, red-bandanna–wearing poster woman from World War II. Rosie decides to build a flying machine and does so (it’s a heli-o-cheese-copter), but it fails. She’s just about to swear off making stuff forever when Aunt Rose congratulates her on her failure; now she can go on to try again. Rosie wears her hair swooped over one eye (just like great-great-aunt Rose), and other figures have exaggerated hairdos, tiny feet and elongated or greatly rounded bodies. The detritus of Rosie’s collections is fascinating, from broken dolls and stuffed animals to nails, tools, pencils, old lamps and possibly an erector set. And cheddar-cheese spray.

Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the right place. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0845-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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