Stereotypes are oh-so-satisfyingly turned on their heads.

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WITCHY THINGS

From the Égalité series

In this Italian import by way of Spain, when a witch’s potion goes wrong, she sets out to do some other witchy things only to have a child question her actions.

Humorous and quirky illustrations accompany this equally whimsical tale of a witch whose potion doesn’t work. “For the love of STINKING SKUNK FARTS!” Her hair is still blue. She would rather her hair were “BLOOD RED, OR ASH GREY, or perhaps BOOGER GREEN.” In a bad mood and wanting to prove she is “A REAL WITCH, a really BAD ONE” she sets out to snatch a child. Soon she spies a red-haired, white boy named Adam, who is playing with dolls. Assuming he’s a naughty brat playing with his sister’s dolls, Adam becomes her target. A circular conversation ensues whereby Adam’s persistent, repeated “BUT WHY?” turns the witch’s stated intentions back on her. As it turns out, Adam loves styling hair, and after styling the witch’s hair she declares it to be “the MOST INCREDIBLE SORCERY I’ve ever seen!” Adam helps the witch to see it is more important to “do THINGS YOU LIKE, just because you like them” than “witchy things to FEEL more like a witch.” This clever tale of upended expectations was winner of the Italian children’s literature prize Premio Narrare La Paritá (Narrating Equality Award) under its original title, Turchina la strega. An equally delightful Spanish edition, Cosas de bruja, translated by Raúl Zanabria and Luis Amavisca, publishes simultaneously.

Stereotypes are oh-so-satisfyingly turned on their heads. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-84-17673-60-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

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THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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