LITTLE SMUDGE

Rightly opening with nods to Matisse, Miró and Leo Lionni, this tale of an irregular newcomer who turns initially hostile geometric forms into friends, by teaching them how to change shape, glows with color and movement. Primed by his parents, Little Smudge—“Petite Tache” in the original, and actually more of a sharply defined black blot than a hazy smudge—goes back to a group of squares and triangles, and after demonstrating his ability to turn into a huge, toothy monster, “tells them how to transform themselves.” Readers who want to know just what Little Smudge says will be disappointed, but will still enjoy seeing the new playmates all expand, go blobby and ultimately turn into Miró-ishly modernist human figures, before reluctantly dispersing for the night. Le Néouanic sends small, simple figures dancing across large expanses of creamy white space, around lines of text that themselves change size and shape. An appealing shelfmate for similar essays in transformation, from Lionni’s Little Blue and Little Yellow, or Charles Shaw’s classic It Looked Like Spilt Milk, to Lois Ehlert’s early works. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2006

ISBN: 1-905417-22-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A BIRTHDAY FOR COW!

Thomas scores again after What Will Fat Cat Sit On? (2007) with another droll crowd-pleaser for the OshKosh B’Gosh set. Scornfully rejecting Duck’s hilariously persistent efforts to add a turnip, Pig and Mouse create a luscious cake—only to find themselves saddled with eating it themselves (not that they mind) when Cow obliviously falls on Duck’s turnip, rapturously declaring this birthday the best one ever. Punctuated by punch-line words (usually “TURNIP”) in red, the huge, pithy text is paired to simply drawn figures that spill past the edges, and often seem ready to pop right up from the page. From the calendar countdown on the front endpapers (Cow’s birthday is October 17th, if you’re curious) to a closing joke on the rear ones about using turnips as toothbrushes, this riotous read-aloud is guaranteed to have them rolling in the aisles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-15-206072-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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