THE BIG BATH HOUSE

A must-have celebration of cultural understanding and community—and the joy of family.

Family, community, body positivity, and a nice hot bath—ahhhhh!

A young international traveler with beige skin and straight dark hair eagerly greets her grandmother at Baachan’s home in Japan. Accompanied by gregarious aunties with “big stories and bigger purses,” she and Baachan visit the big bath house nearby and engage in a cultural, communal event: the Japanese bath. A soapy shower comes first so the women enter the bath clean. Then the girl joins all kinds of women—old and young, thin and fat—who are naked and thoroughly enjoying the hot water and female companionship. Together, the young girls dance while the women talk in this protected and private (yet public) space. Entering the pool, they all take “a chorus of one long breath. Ahhhhh.” Beautifully loose-lined and delicately colored illustrations depict vibrant, earth-toned scenes so soaked with conversation and interaction that, if readers lean close, they might be able to listen in. Various skin tones and body shapes and sizes celebrate a broad spectrum of body diversity. Rhythmic, occasionally rhyming second-person narration invites young readers into the rollicking fun of the bath-house experience. The girl and Baachan understand each other without saying a word—a powerful metaphor for how this book can serve as a cultural bridge between Western and Eastern sensibilities of privacy and body positivity. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A must-have celebration of cultural understanding and community—and the joy of family. (glossary, author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18195-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

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