A witty, thought-provoking triumph.

SWARM OF BEES

An angry kid wreaks havoc until a father’s restorative embrace brings love and forgiveness to child and community.

Tomato in hand, spite on his face, a young boy pulls his tomato-laden wagon across the front endpapers, straight for a bees’ nest. Readers will delight in the title page’s payoff, as the nest sways from the tomato’s impact and hostile bees pour forth. Through the town they fly with the boy, gauging possible targets: a sailor and his mother, workers, pets, apartment dwellers. All are considered by the clever narrator, who uses nursery rhyme–esque repetition. But then it’s revealed: The boy stung all the targets with his tomatoes! The aggrieved neighbors and bees now chase the child across a map full of tomato-splattered evidence. Acting as a metaphor for the emotional states of the characters, the bees are soon caught and calmed by a beekeeper while the boy is soothed by his father’s warm and loving embrace. The artwork, done with ink, rubber stamps, and digital collage, perfectly enhances the text, balancing its emotional depth with comedic beats. Rarely does a design so fully consider how images tell a story from cover to cover, from the swarm leading the eyes to the ingenious use of shapes, color, patterns, negative space, and framing. Mischief-makers will be captivated by its humor and promise of unconditional love and forgiveness; their caregivers will appreciate the exploration of emotions and possible responses.

A witty, thought-provoking triumph. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-39282-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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