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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KINDERGARTEN ROCKS!

Young Dexter Dugan is just days away from starting kindergarten and his stuffed dog, Rufus, is a teensy bit scared. Dexter’s sister, Jessie, having passed through the rigors of kindergarten, is now a third grader and patiently guides him through some of his fears. She helps Rufus, or perhaps Dexter, make a list of the things that worry him about school. A page per fear drifts off the desk and shows the reader, for example, “What if I get lost?” and “Are there mean people?” As it turns out, the teacher is sweet and the activities are absorbing. The lunchroom is like a restaurant and recess is so exciting that all fears are forgotten—until Rufus goes missing. Once again, Jessie lends a hand and by the final bell, Dexter and Rufus are sure that kindergarten does indeed rock. The illustrations, in brilliant shades of crayon-like texture, lend a beguilingly childlike look. Told from a kid’s perspective, this is bound to boost confidence at facing fears and is a terrific tool for those setting off on the elementary track. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-204932-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one.

WAY PAST WORRIED

Brock may be dressed like a superhero, but he sure doesn’t feel like one, as social anxieties threaten to rain on his fun    .

Juan’s superhero-themed birthday party is about to start, but Brock is feeling trepidatious about attending without his brother as his trusty sidekick. His costume does not fit quite right, and he is already running late, and soon Brock is “way past worried.” When he arrives at the party he takes some deep breaths but is still afraid to jump in and so hides behind a tree. Hiding in the same tree is the similarly nervous Nelly, who’s new to the neighborhood. Through the simple act of sharing their anxieties, the children find themselves ready to face their fears. This true-to-life depiction of social anxiety is simply but effectively rendered. While both Nelly and Brock try taking deep breathes to calm their anxieties without success, it is the act of sharing their worries in a safe space with someone who understands that ultimately brings relief. With similar themes, Brock’s tale would make a lovely companion for Tom Percival’s Ruby Finds a Worry (2019) on social-emotional–development bookshelves. Brock is depicted with black hair and tan skin, Nelly presents White, and peers at the party appear fairly diverse.

Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8686-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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