A worthy message wrapped up in a playful romp.

WAKE ME UP IN 20 COCONUTS!

A romp about saying “I don’t know.”

An apartment building full of cartoonlike creatures shown interacting through their windows (a clever illustrative decision) evokes the lively life of urban living. When one neighbor asks another (via the window) to wake them up in “20 coconuts,” the neighbor agrees but then admits to himself that he doesn’t know what that means—something that bothers him because he is known for being a know-it-all; in fact, he comes from a family of know-it-alls. Ah, pressure! The know-it-all gets himself into a tizzy, cleans his ears and finds a sock and a chicken, consults “Phoney” (his cellphone), and even gets his brain washed by Wally’s Wash Works. If this all sounds extremely silly and somewhat chaotic, it is—which means kids will probably love it. Eventually, he wakes up his neighbor with his yelling (right on time, apparently) but admits to her he doesn’t know what 20 coconuts means. She offers to explain, but then he says he has to be somewhere in “11 bananas,” throwing her into confusion. The energetic (some may say frenzied) tone is amplified by illustrations that have lots going on, with various characters talking in dialogue bubbles to each other, but the message itself comes across as a little light until an explanatory note from the “brains” spells it out—it’s OK to say you don’t know. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A worthy message wrapped up in a playful romp. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31196-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

PERFECTLY NORMAN

From the Big Bright Feelings series

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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