A shallow, worn exploration of diverse experiences.

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW

A little girl describes the idyllic scene outside her window and wonders, “What’s outside your window?”

The book presents children gazing out their windows, waving from riverbanks, and peeking from gates in locales all over the world. Straightforward text complements the equally direct digital illustrations as the page turns reveal pops of color within a mainly pastel palette. Life for children across the globe is expressed simply by their descriptions of what’s right outside their windows in their immediate environments. While this concept is lovely, it also simplifies nuanced experiences of children living in diverse settings. The book ends as the young brown-skinned girl who started the book with her question wonders at the bigness of the world, which becomes a little smaller, a little more interconnected when she looks “up at the moon we share.” It’s a sweet ending that would be inspiring if the conflation of vastly different experiences by emphasizing the sameness of a shared celestial body wasn’t such a tired trope. The existence of racially diverse characters and the inclusion of a list of the locations noted in the book don’t accomplish the author’s stated goal of enabling readers to understand that “looking out someone’s window—like ‘walking in someone’s shoes’—helps us understand a person’s life and circumstances.”

A shallow, worn exploration of diverse experiences. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5465-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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THE POUT-POUT FISH IN THE BIG-BIG DARK

Mr. Fish heroically offers to find Ms. Clam’s lost pearl, and as he ventures forth, gentle suspense ensues when he finds himself heading for deeper and darker waters. Young readers will enjoy the energetic and detailed cartoon-like illustrations of this friendly-yet-mysterious underwater world (the scenes deep in the ocean trench are particularly effective), while the rollicking, rhythmic text will have readers diving in with Mr. Fish as he repeatedly admits, “I’m FAST as a sailfish, I’m STRONG as a shark, I’m SMART as dolphin…But I’m scared of the dark.” Fans of The Pout-Pout Fish (2008) will find just as much to love here, and any youngster who has been afraid of the dark will identify with Mr. Fish’s struggle. Luckily, our hero has dedicated friends who help him deal with his anxiety, continue on his quest and keep his promise to Ms. Clam. The final notes of friendship and bravery will resonate with young readers. An entertaining read-aloud and a nice lighthearted vehicle for dealing with fear. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-30798-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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