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Engaging and worthwhile.

This late-summer vignette features two kinds of troublemakers: a bored brother and a bold, thieving raccoon.

The nominal narrator (with his stuffed raccoon accomplice) decides to play pirates. He filches “some rope” (his sister’s sneaker shoelace), a “blindfold” (her scarf) and her stuffed bunny, sending all downstream in his toy boat. Mom intervenes, engendering the bunny’s sopping retrieval and an apology to Sister. Enter a stealthier culprit—seen by readers, not the family—who pilfers both stuffed toys, Brother’s boat and dinosaurs—even, through his bedroom window, his blanket! A funny punch-line spread shows Raccoon snoozing in the tree just outside, a stuffed animal tucked under each paw, the little boat now a bed. Though the kids and toys reunite, it’s clear from the last picture that Raccoon has no intention of reforming. Castillo’s digitally finished ink-and–acetone-transfer illustrations showcase her signature thick, grainy outlines and varied textures, which at turns evoke soft pastel, thin watercolor washes and rendered crayon. A palette of muted greens, red-orange and blue is heavily accented by umber-black (for hair, inky nighttime scenes and some interspersed pictures in silhouette). Children will relate to the everyday sibling tussles and the key roles played by best-loved toys. They’ll also get a peek at the interplay between rural human households and the wild creatures adapting to their presence.

Engaging and worthwhile. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-72991-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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