An excellent and understated portrayal of grief from a child’s perspective

A STOPWATCH FROM GRAMPA

Something as simple as a stopwatch can start, stop, and restart a lifetime of memories.

A young child with pale skin and dark hair holds a stopwatch and slumps, despondent, on a porch. Grampa has recently passed away, and the child is in the throes of sadness and loneliness. Together, they had used the stopwatch to record various activities in minutes and seconds, like the child’s eating bubble-gum ice cream, Grampa’s snoring on the couch, both eating oatmeal-raisin cookies, and more. Those seconds and minutes represented a deep, intergenerational friendship, the absence of which is keenly felt by the young child. Unable to bear this loss, the child buries the stopwatch in a drawer and experiences anger, bargaining, denial, even depression—rarely so clearly characterized in picture books for young readers. Time heals most wounds, and, as the seasons pass, the time comes at last when new memories can be made using Grampa’s favorite stopwatch. Told in honest, first-person prose, this story gently confronts this first journey through loss, offering sensitive conversation starters for families. Muted, poignant illustrations rendered in paint and both colored and graphite pencils effectively depict this difficult yet all too common experience. The child’s face in particular, though simply drawn, evokes a range of emotions—at once poignant and comprehensible.

An excellent and understated portrayal of grief from a child’s perspective (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0144-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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