Jain and MacKay's story and art work seamlessly to convey an important and subtle story of love, loss, beauty, and joy.

MAYA

A young girl and her mother soothe themselves to sleep during a power outage in modern urban India, despite how sorely they both miss Maya's dead Papa.

Slim as this plot is, the evocative text and illustrations conspire to tell and show a story that is more than the sum of its parts. The deep purples, blues, and greens and the rich blacks of MacKay's constructed “paper theater” art convey both the scariness and the magic of nighttime. These moody darks are perfectly contrasted and illuminated by the glow of candlelight, oil lamps, and the lights of distant neighborhoods. Though he’s gone, Papa’s presence is palpable in the tenderness between Maya and Mumma. The book contrasts dark and light, the modern Indian city and the mythical banyan tree jungle of the bedtime story Mumma tells, the sadness of Papa's absence and the closeness between Maya and her mother. Maya's willing imagination conjures the beautiful visual and aural image of a "growling" autorickshaw that becomes a tiger. Following her mother's lead, Maya understands that the tiger is but scratching an itch and that the snake is just rustling leaves as it moves. When she embraces the nighttime animals of her imagination as friends, she can at last hear the tune of her father's familiar, lulling whistle.

Jain and MacKay's story and art work seamlessly to convey an important and subtle story of love, loss, beauty, and joy. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77147-100-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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