Up with the lowly, down with the showy! The meek prevail in this energetic but lackluster picture book by the creator of the...

MAUDE THE NOT-SO-NOTICEABLE SHRIMPTON

Maude Shrimpton’s father’s mustache is so long and twirly it harbors butterflies. Her mother wears live peacocks on her head. Maude, however, is more of a blender.

Indeed, milquetoast Maude disappears in the shadow of her flamboyant family. Her sister Constance has a voice like music: “An ‘um’ or an ‘ah’ from her could get all the birds in the trees a-twitter.” Wardo is “a laugh a minute,” Penelope is traffic-stoppingly beautiful, and Hector is “toe-tappingly mesmerizing.” Maude is so quiet even dogs can’t hear her, and, in debut illustrator Krauss’ stylish, stylized spreads, the girl literally blends into the wallpaper, crosswalk or couch. In the end, it’s visually implied that a tiger eats the entire Shrimpton family—and it’s only Maude’s natural invisibility that keeps her safe. What does this finale say? That the meek shall inherit the Earth? Is this a revenge fantasy? Maude’s last-page smile is hard to decipher, as there are few previous hints as to her character. While the text and even typefaces attempt to be lively, the use of language is flat and familiar. David Lucas’ lovely Halibut Jackson (2010) offers a less calamitous take on a boy who blends into the background.

Up with the lowly, down with the showy! The meek prevail in this energetic but lackluster picture book by the creator of the beloved British Charlie and Lola series. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6515-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 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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