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BECOMING CHARLEY

Moralizing bows out in favor of a clever celebration of how our experiences affect our selves.

Convention is upended in this striking tale of individuality and change.

“Black. Orange. This. Not that.” From the day they are hatched, young caterpillars are informed by their butterfly guardians how to think and how to act. All obey except for Charley. While the others eat ceaselessly, Charley looks up into the canopy and gazes at the trees and clouds and stars. While the others dream of becoming butterflies, Charley imagines what it would be like to be a deer or a waterfall. And as the butterflies tell their charges what to think, Charley finds new things to discover. At last, the day comes for all caterpillars to form their chrysalises, and Charley worries. But while inside, the wayward caterpillar imagines far more than just orange and black, so that when at last the new butterflies emerge, the protagonist’s wings reflect “everything Charley had ever loved.” Storytelling that could have come off as heavy-handed is instead treated here with an elegant touch. Wise produces lush, lovely spreads, not only of the standard monarch colors, but of a world far beyond their perceived limitations. The reveal at the end is evocative of that final spread in Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) but with an entirely different thought process at work. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Moralizing bows out in favor of a clever celebration of how our experiences affect our selves. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-42904-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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IZZY GIZMO AND THE INVENTION CONVENTION

From the Izzy Gizmo series

A disappointing follow-up.

Inventor Izzy Gizmo is back in this sequel to her eponymous debut (2017).

While busily inventing one day, Izzy receives an invitation from the Genius Guild to their annual convention. Though Izzy’s “inventions…don’t always work,” Grandpa (apparently her sole caregiver) encourages her to go. The next day they undertake a long journey “over fields, hills, and waves” and “mile after mile” to isolated Technoff Isle. There, Izzy finds she must compete against four other kids to create the most impressive machine. The colorful, detail-rich illustrations chronicle how poor Izzy is thwarted at every turn by Abi von Lavish, a Veruca Salt–esque character who takes all the supplies for herself. But when Abi abandons her project, Izzy salvages the pieces and decides to take Grandpa’s advice to create a machine that “can really be put to good use.” A frustrated Izzy’s impatience with a friend almost foils her chance at the prize, but all’s well that ends well. There’s much to like: Brown-skinned inventor girl Izzy is an appealing character, it’s great to see a nurturing brown-skinned male caregiver, the idea of an “Invention Convention” is fun, and a sustainable-energy invention is laudable. However, these elements don’t make up for rhymes that often feel forced and a lackluster story.

A disappointing follow-up. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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HEY, DUCK!

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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