From the Maple series

Strong sibling bonds are perfectly described through spare language and artwork as lush as a forest of maple and willow...

Maple and Willow do just about everything in sweet, sisterly symbiosis.

Rain and shine, summer and winter, morning and night find the two girls (one bigger, with tight braids, the other littler, with spiky ponytails) together, usually speaking their own language: pig Latin. Pencil drawings on Mylar, enhanced with lots of fuzzy peachy pinks and leafy greens, show the girls transfixed in partnered play, their round heads and dot eyes oriented identically, scrutinizing books, worms, drawings and make-believe fairy houses. Nichols makes clever use of the book’s gutter, subtly and simply representing the invisible bridge that both connects the girls so seamlessly (and here quite beautifully) and also distinguishes them from each other. Maple calls most of the shots, as most big sisters do, and Willow doesn’t mind much, being an easygoing little. But everyone has their limits. “ADMAY!” screams Willow after being told what to do one too many times, and she stomps on Maple’s most special toy. Then comes a big push from Maple, tossing her little sister—slam—to the ground. Raw, real, and easily imagined by any child who’s finally had enough from a close friend, classmate, sister, brother (or even mommy or daddy). Sisterly love abides, of course, with pig Latin apologies all around.

Strong sibling bonds are perfectly described through spare language and artwork as lush as a forest of maple and willow trees. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16283-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014


Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Close Quickview