A warmhearted lesson in community and creative thinking, delivered simply.

WHAT GREW IN LARRY'S GARDEN

Young Grace, the titular Larry’s neighbor, learns that a garden is more than the sum of its produce.

Larry, white-haired, bearded, and bespectacled, grows rainbow chard, zebra-striped tomatoes, and purple potatoes in his garden, where Grace helps plant, prune, hoe, and harvest. When problems arise—bugs in the carrots, for instance—Larry’s philosophy is summed up in what he says first: “We can figure this out.” He and Grace (both appear white) plant marigolds to discourage bugs and build wire cages to protect tomatoes from squirrels. Alary’s unfussy narrative and Reich’s cheery, bright art create a welcoming and friendly feel for the neighborhood and the garden. “We’re not just growing vegetables,” Larry tells Grace. The tomato seedlings that he and Grace start over the winter have sprouted from seeds they gathered. Larry, a teacher, takes the tomato seedlings to school, where each is nurtured by a student, then given with a note of explanation to a neighbor the student selects. An author’s note explains that the story was inspired by a real-life teacher who created this project as a way to build community. In the story, when Grace and Larry encounter a problem caused by a neighbor’s fence, it is Grace who takes what she has learned from gardening with Larry and helps to create a positive solution.

A warmhearted lesson in community and creative thinking, delivered simply. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0108-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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