IF SOMEBODY LIVED NEXT DOOR

Little Olivia Wendell is without neighbors, so she has learned to play alone. In her imagination, she populates the empty house next door with an inviting family and lots of lively farm animals. At story's end, a moving van appears in front of the vacant house and a girl just Olivia's age arrives at the gate between the two yards. The universal preschooler's wish for a friend is happily granted in Hough's very simple first book, although slightly older children will wonder why Olivia doesn't go to school and why no parents or siblings appear—she sleeps in a blanket in a chair at night. Kvasnosky (Mr. Chips, 1996) graces the book with her distinctive illustrations, in which boldly drawn forms are not quite filled with strong, flat color, so that every shape is enlivened by a white ``halo'' inside its outline. In the pictures, Olivia plays with a toy farm (from which her fantasies take shape) and owns a copy of an earlier book Kvasnosky illustrated, Florence Page Jaques's There Once Was a Puffin (1995). (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-525-45497-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1997

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WONDER BEAR

Newcomer Nyeu’s wordless fantasy begins with a girl and boy sowing seeds—she, for watermelons, he, for a hat (or so his planted sign would indicate). The pair sleeps in a people-bed beside their garden bed, awakening next morn to sprouting melon seeds and an eye-poppingly huge flowering plant. Its largest bud yields a magic hat and a white bear—who parlays the day into something wondrous, indeed. From his hat, Wonder Bear produces monkeys, giant bubbles resembling lions and flora that morphs into sea-creature escorts. After careering exhilaratingly through night sky and sea, the little band heads back in time for Bear to tuck the children in beside their fabulous garden, now rife with full-size watermelons. Borrowing from Seuss, Gag, Thurber and Japanese textiles, Nyeu’s lush silk-screened pictures pulse with stylized yet organic forms, teetering perspectives and a mysterious, apt conclusion. The design elements are noteworthy, too: The generous trim size, creamy, opaque, matte paper and lovely boards and endpapers combine artfully. An intriguing, nuanced debut from an artist to watch. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3328-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Stronger bedtime and alien books abound in the universe of children’s literature.

OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE

A melding of fact and fiction strives to present a bedtime lesson on the solar system.

Two earthling children drift off to sleep as the book opens, and successive spreads describe the bedtime routines of sleepy little extraterrestrials on Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Endpapers underscore the title’s reference to a “race” by depicting the planets as first-through-ninth–place medals according to their respective distances from the sun. This seems to refer more to solar years instead of days with regard to the measurement of the time (how long it takes to travel around the sun, versus how long it takes for a day to pass), which muddies the bedtime theme a bit. After all, planetary days are dictated by rotation and vary in length without necessarily corresponding to the annual “race” around the sun. Backmatter entitled “Sleepy Bedtime Planet Factoids” help to ground the text in scientific facts about the planets, but this can’t fully mitigate how stumbling rhymes and twee wordplay grate—“Uranus is a gassy place. / They sleep with masks stuck to each face.” Won’s digital artwork has a retro sensibility. An isolated inclusion of a brown-skinned boy on the second spread smacks of tokenism, since all other representations of human children depict the same Caucasian boys (the children of Neptune display more diversity by comparison).

Stronger bedtime and alien books abound in the universe of children’s literature. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38647-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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