Those seeking feminist-tinged picture books should look elsewhere

READ REVIEW

LIZA JANE & THE DRAGON

A young girl thinks that a dragon will be a better caregiver than her mom and dad.

Liza Jane’s parents tell her that she’s very lucky. She has all the trappings of a happy-enough childhood: a canopy bed, a goldfish, and pizza on Fridays. “Yet: people didn’t listen to her. People interrupted her. People didn’t care about her feelings. And by ‘people’—we mean her parents.” The mixed-race child decides to fire her parental unit, and after putting up signs around the neighborhood (“Wanted: A MOM + A DAD”), she hires a dragon who claims “I can do both jobs.” But the dragon can’t cook, can’t brush Liza Jane’s hair, and “if anything made Liza Jane mad or frustrated, the dragon set it on fire.” The illustrations are subdued watercolors; Liza Jane and the dragon are always rendered in bold colors, set against a retro sepia backdrop, with other splashes of color indicating the focal point of each spread. The text is awkward and clunky, using an overwhelmingly didactic tone for a story lacking any clear or compelling takeaways. “After two weeks, or maybe it was six months, or maybe it was four years,” Liza Jane sends the dragon away and rehires her parents. “She tells them every day how lucky they are.”

Those seeking feminist-tinged picture books should look elsewhere . (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61775-661-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Black Sheep/Akashic

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Cool beans indeed.

THE COOL BEAN

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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