A touching portrait of the fall season from two superb artists.

IN THE MIDDLE OF FALL

Author-illustrator duo Henkes and Dronzek extol the quiet splendors of autumn in this lyrical, exquisite complement to their previous seasonal outing, When Spring Comes (2016).

Its crown full of reddish-orange leaves, a tree stands against a gray sky. “In the middle of Fall, / when the leaves / have already turned,” the narrator begins. Measured and understated, Henkes’ text masterfully raises and stirs moods and sensations in pieces, each building on top of the other. A fair-skinned child in a red hooded sweatshirt and yellow boots sits on a swing, a brown dog sitting on the ground nearby. Squirrels scurry about, gardens wither, and pumpkins “are ready” as various children pluck them off the ground. All it takes is “just one big gust of wind,” says the wistful narrator, and suddenly “everything is yellow / and red / and orange.” Solid lines and deep autumnal colors abound in Dronzek’s gorgeous acrylic illustrations, which fill the spaces left untouched by the text. In pace and richness, text and pictures dreamily embody the essence of fall, which in this book marks a transition both bittersweet and inevitable. Enjoy the child and dog at play throughout these autumn landscapes, because before either of them knows it (and perhaps before readers realize it as well), change will come again.

A touching portrait of the fall season from two superb artists. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-257311-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard.

THE HALLOWEEN TREE

A grouchy sapling on a Christmas tree farm finds that there are better things than lights and decorations for its branches.

A Grinch among the other trees on the farm is determined never to become a sappy Christmas tree—and never to leave its spot. Its determination makes it so: It grows gnarled and twisted and needle-less. As time passes, the farm is swallowed by the suburbs. The neighborhood kids dare one another to climb the scary, grumpy-looking tree, and soon, they are using its branches for their imaginative play, the tree serving as a pirate ship, a fort, a spaceship, and a dragon. But in winter, the tree stands alone and feels bereft and lonely for the first time ever, and it can’t look away from the decorated tree inside the house next to its lot. When some parents threaten to cut the “horrible” tree down, the tree thinks, “Not now that my limbs are full of happy children,” showing how far it has come. Happily for the tree, the children won’t give up so easily, and though the tree never wished to become a Christmas tree, it’s perfectly content being a “trick or tree.” Martinez’s digital illustrations play up the humorous dichotomy between the happy, aspiring Christmas trees (and their shoppers) and the grumpy tree, and the diverse humans are satisfyingly expressive.

Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7335-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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