This may not be the most obvious first choice for a storytime or for a young reader to pick up; rather, it is a deceptively...

THE FULL HOUSE AND THE EMPTY HOUSE

This allegory about friendship that bridges difference and perceived inequality is quietly yet effectively told in an understated tone.

Two similar-looking houses are friends. Their differences are compellingly shown rather than told: “On the outside / they looked much the same” is followed by two spreads. The first shows a comfortable interior with a sofa, end table, and art on the walls along with the words “But on the inside— ”; the second reveals a bare room and the sentence’s conclusion: “—the two houses were quite different.” Inanimate objects may seem to be unusual choices as characters, but this approach depersonalizes the implied relative difference in wealth. Ink illustrations, done in a limited palette of brown, salmon, and turquoise on a mustard background, have a naïve look that emulates woodblock prints. They suitably interpret the quiet tone of the text, which avoids becoming celebratory about overcoming difference and imbalance. Neither of these two houses is better than the other; they are simply friends, each with something to offer the other. Refreshingly, the full house doesn’t minister to the empty one, and the empty one doesn’t owe the full one any thanks.

This may not be the most obvious first choice for a storytime or for a young reader to pick up; rather, it is a deceptively powerful, timely message in the guise of a quiet, old-fashioned package. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9990249-3-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Ripple Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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 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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