YOU, ME AND THE BIG BLUE SEA

A mother underestimates her young son’s memory in Fitzpatrick’s (I’m a Tiger Too!, p. 410, etc.) inventive offering. “When you were a baby we went to sea, didn’t we?” Fitzgerald begins, “You, Aunt Alice and me, all three. And a big, big trunk. But you were only a baby. You wouldn’t remember.” The opening spread reveals the Victorian-era scene as the pair share a scrapbook of the journey. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald’s luminous watercolors tell the story from the child’s perspective and reveal what really happened in alternating three-quarter-page spreads and framed vignettes. For example, the baby sees a deck hand drop the open trunk, but the mother doesn’t notice because her back is turned; opposite, stockings and other garments drift to sea in a thumbnail sketch. In the spread that follows (“We waved bye-bye, didn’t we? Then we were away, just like that, without any fuss,”) the baby bids adieu to a crewmember as he falls overboard. The format repeats throughout—mother’s story, refrain (“But you were only a baby. / You wouldn’t remember”) and child’s-eye view. Fitzgerald’s illustrations work in tandem with the text and are notable in their attention to detail. Children will enjoy pointing out the activity in each scene, making this a good choice for lap sharing. Unfortunately, the repetitive text—the very device on which the story hangs—soon wears thin, the set-up condescending. Although the now school-age child is capable of giving voice to his own experience, he remains silent throughout. He’ll have to rely on the audience to do the talking for him. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7613-1691-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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