With its generous format and variety, this work should keep kids happily occupied for hours while learning a few things...



This California-themed children’s activity book provides information on the state’s history, animals, and more through coloring pages, stickers, and puzzles.

California is a huge state, matching the big format of this work, with 368 full-size pages packed with information, black-and-white line drawings to color, puzzles to complete, and 253 stickers. (Silhouettes on the appropriate drawings read “PLACE STICKER HERE.”) With some exceptions, the drawing style is cartoonish; both adult and animal figures have exaggerated, childlike features, such as big heads, wide-set eyes, and toothy, open-mouthed grins. Sixteen chapters cover topics including California’s prehistory, European exploration, missions, places of interest, animals, festivals, parks, food, and activities. The opening chapter, “Characters of California,” provides coloring pages (but no additional information) depicting such figures as Maxie Mammoth; Yuki, a Native American; and Soul Deadbones, a sugar-skull man wearing a sombrero. These often correspond to other pages (for example, Soul Deadbones goes with the Día de los Muertos entry), but no cross-references are provided. In the remaining chapters, each page usually includes a headline and a few sentences of explanation, along with a picture to color or a puzzle to solve. Sometimes Drenth (Dogs Don’t, 2017, etc.) makes only a tenuous connection to the state’s history, as when a page on San Francisco’s Chinatown in the Northern California chapter is followed by a maze titled “Help the ninja find the path to his lunch.” What do ninjas, whether the original Japanese feudal mercenaries or the pop-culture variety, have to do with the Bay Area? Similarly, the illustrations by Cardona (Puerto Rico Coloring Learning Activity Book, 2013, etc.) sometimes lack accuracy; Yuki, for example, wears deerskin leggings, although Yuki men wore only an apron-like piece of deerskin. But children, less picky about such matters, can enjoy the assortment of activities the book offers, the bite-sized factoids, and perhaps especially the colorful stickers, which are vivid, lively, and fun.

With its generous format and variety, this work should keep kids happily occupied for hours while learning a few things about California.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-880760-70-3

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Sunnyscene LLC

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.


Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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