OSCAR'S TOWER OF FLOWERS

A very young boy finds joy in a difficult situation.

When Oscar’s mom brings him to live with his grandmother for a while, he is frightened and lonely. After his painful, emotional goodbye to his mom, Nana hugs him and reassures him. That first tearful night is so very difficult, despite the companionship of his toy monkey, the photo of mom and him next to him on the pillow, and a comforting thumb to suck. The next morning there’s a lovely breakfast, a jigsaw puzzle, and drawing with Nana and the cat. When Oscar carefully helps to water a drooping plant, Nana takes notice and brings him to a special store to purchase seeds, soil, containers, and tools. With lots of patience and Oscar’s careful tending, Nana’s apartment and terrace fill up with greenery, vines, and flowers. So many, in fact, that they gift all the neighbors with the lovely plants, making lots of new friends. The story is told entirely without words in a series of fully detailed, beautifully crafted, colorful vignettes of varying sizes. In them readers see and understand mom’s, Nana’s, and, of course, Oscar’s emotions in their faces and body language. Oscar and his family present White, with beige skin tones; Nana is refreshingly youthful looking. There are lovely surprises in the views of the apartments and their very diverse occupants before and after Oscar’s triumph. A lovely, joyful reunion with mom is comforting for young readers cuddled with their grown-ups.

Warm and wonderful. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1777-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.

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LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET

A young boy yearns for what he doesn’t have, but his nana teaches him to find beauty in what he has and can give, as well as in the city where they live.

CJ doesn’t want to wait in the rain or take the bus or go places after church. But through Nana’s playful imagination and gentle leadership, he begins to see each moment as an opportunity: Trees drink raindrops from straws; the bus breathes fire; and each person has a story to tell. On the bus, Nana inspires an impromptu concert, and CJ’s lifted into a daydream of colors and light, moon and magic. Later, when walking past broken streetlamps on the way to the soup kitchen, CJ notices a rainbow and thinks of his nana’s special gift to see “beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Through de la Peña’s brilliant text, readers can hear, feel and taste the city: its grit and beauty, its quiet moments of connectedness. Robinson’s exceptional artwork works with it to ensure that readers will fully understand CJ’s journey toward appreciation of the vibrant, fascinating fabric of the city. Loosely defined patterns and gestures offer an immediate and raw quality to the Sasek-like illustrations. Painted in a warm palette, this diverse urban neighborhood is imbued with interest and possibility.

This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-25774-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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DONOVAN'S BIG DAY

It may be his mothers’ wedding day, but it’s Donovan’s big day in Newman’s (Heather Has Two Mommies, 1989, etc.) latest picture book about queer family life. Centered on the child’s experience and refreshingly eschewing reference to controversy, the book emerges as a celebration of not only Mommy’s and Mama’s mutual love but progress toward equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Readers, however, don't know immediately know why it is “a very BIG day” for Donovan or what the “very BIG job” is that he has to do. In his affectionate, humorous gouache paintings with digital finish, Dutton cleverly includes clues in the form of family pictures in an earlier spread set inside their home, and then a later spread shows Donovan in a suit and placing a “little white satin box that Aunt Jennifer gave him” into his pocket, hinting toward his role as ring bearer. But it’s not until the third-to-last spread that he stands with his parents and hands “one shiny gold ring to Mommy [and] one shiny gold ring to Mama.” He, of course, gets to kiss the brides on the last page, lending a happily-ever-after sensibility to the end of this story about a family's new beginning. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-332-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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