A love letter to new friendships and apartment living.

AGNES'S PLACE

A new resident changes the comforting rhythm of life in a young girl’s apartment.

Five-year-old Agnes knows absolutely everything about the inhabitants of her bustling apartment building. She’s attuned to the smallest sounds and slightest smells that tell her what someone is baking, building, cleaning, or celebrating. Then Agnes’ perfectly orderly world is turned upside down when Anna moves into the building. Agnes loves the idea of a new friend, but what if Anna doesn’t want to be friends? What if Anna’s presence means Agnes becomes less important in her world? Translated from Norwegian, the third-person narration is compelling and understandable for American audiences while visual cultural markers are glimpsed here and there. The complexity of Agnes’ emotions is communicated with small details in her here and now. With the exception of a couple small storytelling hiccups (readers will wonder why Anna never reaches out to Agnes), the text and illustrations work in tandem to bring the magic of apartment living and new friendship to life. Shapes, lines, and colors create movement and a strong visual throughline, helping readers’ eyes navigate detailed illustrations full of the messy, vibrant elements of life. Patterns and textures add another layer of cozy charm. Agnes is depicted with black hair and light brown skin while Anna has pale skin and blond hair. The apartment residents appear mostly White with the exception of one Black neighbor. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 73.8% of actual size.)

A love letter to new friendships and apartment living. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2675-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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