This picture book about expressing emotions comes with good intentions but an outdated message.

THE PUPPET'S SMILE

From the Tears of Puppet series

A puppet learns the importance of expressing emotion in this Chinese import.

An old carpenter makes a puppet, remembering to give it a nose and eyes. Oh, and a smile so the puppet can be happy. With a permanent smile upon his face, the clownish puppet ventures out into the city, where he encounters a sly fox. The incident is terribly distressing, but no one believes that a smiling puppet could be anything but happy. Finally, a kindly witch gives the miserable toy a gift. Puppet realizes, “You can’t be happy if you can’t smile. But feeling everything else is just as important.” The illustrations of this fablelike story have a childlike whimsy, with their tilted perspectives and exaggerated movements. Thick, crayon-y lines and the occasional splash of ink augment cut-paper elements. The text is brief, moving the story along briskly. The decorative type it’s printed in is playful, yet the frequent changes in size and orientation are visually overwhelming at times. The concluding moral about the importance of feeling and showing emotions could act as a conversational springboard, but it also reinforces the false idea that the only acceptable way to express emotion is the typical way. Indeed, might the old carpenter be the one in need of a lesson about emotions rather than his creation? The puppet, witch, and carpenter all have pale skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 36% of actual size.)

This picture book about expressing emotions comes with good intentions but an outdated message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6971-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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