Agreeable animal fun but weightless as a too-brief visit to the zoo.

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SLOTH TO THE RESCUE

When a girl leaves her school project at the zoo, it’s up to Sloth and his faster-moving friends to deliver the notebook back to her.

Patti’s been spending her summer working on a set of drawings to turn in at the beginning of school. Sloth, who looks like a fuzzy gray log with an expressive, wide face, adores Patti, who, like Sloth, never seems in any rush. When Sloth notices she’s left her notebook, he calls to action Peccary, Boa, Capuchin, and Ocelot to give him some assistance. Slowly, of course: “Let’s. go. on. a. field. trip…” he suggests. Shirtliffe cleverly assigns tasks according to the animals’ strengths. When they arrive at Patti’s school, Peccary is great at lining up, skin-shedding Boa fits right in in the coat room, and so on. Sloth, for his part, can meditate and remain calm until he locates Patti. Lively illustrations throughout portray superfriendly animals, Sloth in particular, interacting with charmed children at a school that clearly has great liability insurance. Backmatter explains some of the behaviors of animals and people that inspired the book, ending with a useful plug for animal-rescue centers. For all its charm, however, the story stops a little short and feels lightweight overall, without adding much to the current vogue of sloths as cuddly spirit animals for the unrushed or perpetually late.

Agreeable animal fun but weightless as a too-brief visit to the zoo. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9159-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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