FRUIT BOWL

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? Ripe with puns, this tale turns on the question.

In word bubbles, an off-page child converses with a bevy of colorful, anthropomorphized foodstuffs while putting the produce away: “How’s everyone doing?” Lemon’s “Full of zest.” Strawberry says, “I was jammed in that bag.” When the tomato tries to climb into the fruit bowl, everyone questions his right. Tomato then lectures those assembled: Fruits develop from flowers, while veggies might be leaves, stems (asparagus), petals (artichokes, anyone?), or roots. He produces a wacky X-ray showing not only his seeds, but the bones of his skinny arms and legs. Each fruit and vegetable in Hoffmann’s digitally composed, hand-lettered gouache pictures sports simple facial features and sticklike limbs. The male tomato and “Old Man Produce”—a wizened prune with bushy gray brows—are explicitly gendered, while a lemon and pepper have full lips and eyelashes, implying they are female. The Old Man delivers a rambling, Zen-like speech that muddies the already-sketchy science. With their new knowledge, a pepper, bean, eggplant, cuke, avocado, snow pea, and yellow squash line up to climb the fruit bowl’s ladder. Hoffmann’s premise is a bit shaky. Some veggies are typically unrefrigerated (think potatoes), some fruits are regularly kept chilled, and many of those newly ensconced denizens of this fruit bowl (from peppers to squash) keep better in the fridge.

Inessential. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1991-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one.

WAY PAST WORRIED

Brock may be dressed like a superhero, but he sure doesn’t feel like one, as social anxieties threaten to rain on his fun    .

Juan’s superhero-themed birthday party is about to start, but Brock is feeling trepidatious about attending without his brother as his trusty sidekick. His costume does not fit quite right, and he is already running late, and soon Brock is “way past worried.” When he arrives at the party he takes some deep breaths but is still afraid to jump in and so hides behind a tree. Hiding in the same tree is the similarly nervous Nelly, who’s new to the neighborhood. Through the simple act of sharing their anxieties, the children find themselves ready to face their fears. This true-to-life depiction of social anxiety is simply but effectively rendered. While both Nelly and Brock try taking deep breathes to calm their anxieties without success, it is the act of sharing their worries in a safe space with someone who understands that ultimately brings relief. With similar themes, Brock’s tale would make a lovely companion for Tom Percival’s Ruby Finds a Worry (2019) on social-emotional–development bookshelves. Brock is depicted with black hair and tan skin, Nelly presents White, and peers at the party appear fairly diverse.

Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8686-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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