Penny and Jelly are sure to warm the hearts of both future talent-show contestants and readers who have similarly close...

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THE SCHOOL SHOW

From the Penny & Jelly series

The Peabody Elementary School Talent Show is a source of anxiety for Penny, who has no clear talent.

Jelly, Penny’s small black-and-white dog, is her best friend, sticking by her as she tries to figure out what her talent is, no matter how loud, uncomfortable, or unpleasant that process might be. From playing the tuba and juggling to jumping rope and designing doggy fashions, Penny fails at them all. But it’s not for lack of trying or a shortage of determination. Multiple lists and lots of ideas later (magic, yodeling, ballroom dancing), the exasperated Penny finally just crosses the talent show off her list. She doesn’t want to share her “untalentedness” with the whole school. But when Penny reaches her lowest, her dog comes through for her, showing her just what the two of them are best at, and readers will not be surprised at the award they win. Heder’s illustrations appear to be watercolors, and they capture both Penny’s outsider status among other kids and her close relationship with her pooch, who is always at her side. Spot illustrations and white backgrounds work well to show the many activities attempted, and the lists with crossed-off items speak volumes about Penny’s rising frustration level.

Penny and Jelly are sure to warm the hearts of both future talent-show contestants and readers who have similarly close canine friends. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-23014-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite.

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AFTER THE FALL (HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN)

Humpty Dumpty, classically portrayed as an egg, recounts what happened after he fell off the wall in Santat’s latest.

An avid ornithophile, Humpty had loved being atop a high wall to be close to the birds, but after his fall and reassembly by the king’s men, high places—even his lofted bed—become intolerable. As he puts it, “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Although fear bars Humpty from many of his passions, it is the birds he misses the most, and he painstakingly builds (after several papercut-punctuated attempts) a beautiful paper plane to fly among them. But when the plane lands on the very wall Humpty has so doggedly been avoiding, he faces the choice of continuing to follow his fear or to break free of it, which he does, going from cracked egg to powerful flight in a sequence of stunning spreads. Santat applies his considerable talent for intertwining visual and textual, whimsy and gravity to his consideration of trauma and the oft-overlooked importance of self-determined recovery. While this newest addition to Santat’s successes will inevitably (and deservedly) be lauded, younger readers may not notice the de-emphasis of an equally important part of recovery: that it is not compulsory—it is OK not to be OK.

A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-682-6

Page Count: 45

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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