Here's a recipe tried and true: on each page, one large letter, one familiar word that begins with that letter, and one big, bright close-up color photo of a beautiful young child. The versatile Williams (The Executioner’s Daughter above) centers the camera lens on her models’ faces, adding only an occasional prop or costume. She scatters laughter-provoking surprises, including a trio of girls in “Underwear” and a seemingly disembodied head floating on a sea of “Jellybeans,” between the traditional “A – Apple” and “Z – Zipper.” Of course, all the smiling, dirty, sleeping, pensive, joyful, shiny faces blatantly manipulate the viewer's emotions, but only the most curmudgeonly will object. (Picture book. 3-5)
A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.
A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.
Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.
(Picture book. 3-5)
A poetic ode to women who became mothers despite the challenges they faced.
Whether navigating the roughest seas, crossing the hottest deserts, or pushing through painful brambles, the mothers in this book know their long, hard journeys were worth the effort. There might have been failure and doubt, but now that it’s all over, they know they’d “do it all over again. For you.” First-person narration expresses in metaphor the extraordinary lengths some mothers will go to achieve their dream of holding a child in their arms. Sentimental and flowery, the text is broad enough to apply to the journeys of many mothers—even though the text is gender neutral, the illustrations clearly center the mother’s experience. At times another figure, often male-presenting, is shown alongside a mother. Soft, jewel-toned illustrations peppered with textures depict families with a variety of skin tones and hair colors/textures. The assortment of mothers shown demonstrates the universality of the message, but it also contributes to the absence of a strong visual throughline. In the concluding author’s note, Serhant shares her personal struggle to conceive her child, which included fertility treatments and IVF. Ultimately, although the sentiment is lovely, the message is too abstract to be understood by children and will be better received and appreciated by parents.
Though it looks like a book for longed-for children, it’s really for their parents.
(Picture book. 3-5)