New readers will be eager to follow such unconventional instructions, and experienced readers will recognize every single...

HOW TO READ A BOOK

A linguistic and visual feast awaits in Alexander and Sweet’s debut collaboration.

If the mechanics of deciphering words on a page is a well-covered topic, the orchestration of finding magic between pages is an art emphasized but unexplained…until now. First things are first: “find a tree—a black tupelo or dawn redwood will do—and plant yourself.” Once settled, take the book in hand and “dig your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and pop the words out…[then] // Squeeze every morsel of each plump line until the last drop of magic / drips from the infinite sky.” Reading, captured here in both content and form, is hailed as the unassailably individual, creative act it is. The prosody and rhythm and multimodal sensuousness of Alexander’s poetic text is made playfully material in Sweet’s mixed-media collage-and-watercolor illustrations. Not only does the book explain how to read, but it also demonstrates the elegant and emotive chaos awaiting readers in an intricate partnership of text and image. Despite the engaging physicality of gatefolds and almost three-dimensional spreads, readers with lower contrast sensitivity or readers less experienced at differentiating shapes and letters may initially find some of the more complex collage spreads difficult to parse. Children depicted are typically kraft-paper brown.

New readers will be eager to follow such unconventional instructions, and experienced readers will recognize every single step . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-230781-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A sweet confection through and through, from the glitter on the cover to the nonpareils on the endpapers.

PAT-A-CAKE BABY

Baby bakes.

This Caucasian baby, in a white onesie and a chef’s hat, is a self-proclaimed “cookie baby [and] pat-a-cake baby.” After nightfall, the baby proceeds to the kitchen, where three tiny candy friends are waiting. The rollicking, rhythmic text, which reads aloud in a most bouncy and satisfying way, dances and giggles all over the pages. Butter, sugar, eggs, milk, flour are shaken and strewn and sifted by baby and companions. The cake is baked and iced and served so deliciously that the Man in the Moon comes to share. Pastel candy colors abound, with stars and sprinkles. Wordplay is everywhere; the baby happily declares that they’re “frisking while we’re whisking ’til it’s flitter flotter fluffy.” After the cake’s in the oven, who can resist? “We’re scraping out the bowl / with an icky flicky licky / and oops we lick each other / and all of us are sticky.” This is accompanied by an image of baby and buddies all in the mixing bowl, licking their fingers. Perspective bends and stretches like a fun-house mirror (or taffy), and the relative sizes of kitchen tools and objects are a little dizzying. It’s good fun but definitely not quiet bedtime reading, especially since it concludes with multicolored capital letters spelling out “IT’S EATING TIME!”

A sweet confection through and through, from the glitter on the cover to the nonpareils on the endpapers. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7577-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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This Old MacDonald’s not much fun. E-I-E-I-O.

OLD MACDONALD HAD A BABY

Snape and Steele give readers a modern twist.

Old MacDonald is a going-gray-around-the-temples beige-skinned man with a black husband and a beige-skinned baby. When his husband drives off in the morning, MacDonald is left in charge of the child with help from his pets—and eventually the entire barnyard, as with each stanza a new animal joins the action. Steele’s bright, cartoon-style illustrations sell the zaniness of a new dad’s day. They elevate the story as bipedal animals assist the harried dad with the increasing chaos, but they can’t save it. Snape’s word choice often fights the tempo of the song, and the few moments of alliteration may create tongue-twisters during read-alouds: “And for that baby he sang a song, / E-I-E-I-O. / With a boom-boom here, / And a crash-bang there, // Here’s a clap, there’s a whack, / Everywhere’s a raucous ruckus!” The constantly changing language—so different from the song’s patterning—makes it impossible for a child or a group of children to sing along. The joy of “Old MacDonald” is the call-and-response opportunity offered with each additional animal. What does a goat say again? In this version, adults may chuckle at the memory of the frantic early years, but children will feel frustrated that they have limited moments to join in the fun. It sinks some really good illustrations.

This Old MacDonald’s not much fun. E-I-E-I-O. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30281-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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