Incantatory pictures and words project a fresh world for people of all ages.

DARLING BABY

A grandmother records beach days spent with her grandchild in lyrical language and expressive artwork.

Kalman’s notes from her shore summer with Darling Baby turn into a gorgeous recounting of shared discoveries (seashells, stones, silver fish, rabbits) and experiences (a lightning storm, a bustling party, a nap on the lawn). Vivid full-bleed spreads deliver Technicolor experiences in vibrant strokes of pigment and words as well—Kalman incorporates hand-lettered text (in alternating emphatic caps and romantic script) into these charming paintings, allowing her voice and her images to seamlessly cohere. Readers bask in Kalman’s bright visions of summer’s sweetness absorbed alongside a child just greeting the world. The pair, at either end of mortality, find stones and shells and note that “Oskar the dog looked unhappy in his sweater.” Kalman’s ebullient illustrations, delightful portraiture, and idiosyncratic phrasing imbue the quotidian with complex (sometimes mysterious) meaning and weight. When waves pull a dead sea turtle back into “the vast ocean,” she tells the babe, “I think that is a good thing. At any rate, it is a thing. I am telling you this because I know you will understand.” Readers old and young will recognize the profound mutuality felt between grandmother and grandchild throughout this enchanting book, straightforward in affect but brimming with love. Its small trim emphasizes the intimacy of their relationship.

Incantatory pictures and words project a fresh world for people of all ages. (Picture book. 3-6, adult)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-33062-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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