PETRA

Lending itself to a range of readings, from perspective to an exploration of identity, this Italian import is a pleasingly...

A well-crafted conversation starter that touches on many themes, including perspective, relevance, and potential.

Meet Petra, a smooth gray oval of possibility. When first encountered, Petra appears to be an ancient mountain, one that loomed high above dinosaurs and inspired knightly quests. When the perspective changes via the introduction of a canine, readers see that Petra is a large pebble. The encounter with the dog (and its white owner) causes Petra to believe in turn that she is an egg in a nest and then (once exiled by a parent bird) an island in a pond. With each encounter, Petra’s optimistic outlook never dampens: “Whatever I become, I’m bound to be amazing!” She is eventually claimed by a young white child and painted to look like an elephant. At book’s end, Petra wonders, “What will I be tomorrow? Who knows? Well, no need to worry. I’m a rock, and this is how I roll.” Coppo accomplishes a lot with a little. Her illustrations—a mixture of tempera, pastels, and digital collage—are simple but emote mountains. Petra’s facial expressions mirror the text elegantly, often with the subtlest shift of pupil orientation or a minor change in the shape of the mouth. The result is a book that will work in both large storytimes and intimate lap reads.

Lending itself to a range of readings, from perspective to an exploration of identity, this Italian import is a pleasingly intelligent book. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6267-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

JUST BECAUSE

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

THE LEAF THIEF

A hilarious autumnal comedy of errors.

A confused squirrel overreacts to the falling autumn leaves.

Relaxing on a tree branch, Squirrel admires the red, gold, and orange leaves. Suddenly Squirrel screams, “One of my leaves is…MISSING!” Searching for the leaf, Squirrel tells Bird, “Someone stole my leaf!” Spying Mouse sailing in a leaf boat, Squirrel asks if Mouse stole the leaf. Mouse calmly replies in the negative. Bird reminds Squirrel it’s “perfectly normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year.” Next morning Squirrel panics again, shrieking, “MORE LEAVES HAVE BEEN STOLEN!” Noticing Woodpecker arranging colorful leaves, Squirrel queries, “Are those my leaves?” Woodpecker tells Squirrel, “No.” Again, Bird assures Squirrel that no one’s taking the leaves and that the same thing happened last year, then encourages Squirrel to relax. Too wired to relax despite some yoga and a bath, the next day Squirrel cries “DISASTER” at the sight of bare branches. Frantic now, Squirrel becomes suspicious upon discovering Bird decorating with multicolored leaves. Is Bird the culprit? In response, Bird shows Squirrel the real Leaf Thief: the wind. Squirrel’s wildly dramatic, misguided, and hyperpossessive reaction to a routine seasonal event becomes a rib-tickling farce through clever use of varying type sizes and weights emphasizing his absurd verbal pronouncements as well as exaggerated, comic facial expressions and body language. Bold colors, arresting perspectives, and intense close-ups enhance Squirrel’s histrionics. Endnotes explain the science behind the phenomenon.

A hilarious autumnal comedy of errors. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-3520-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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