A thousand mixed messages at the museum.

EXPLORERS

In this almost wordless book, a family of four encounters cultural diversity in the exhibits and the patrons of an urban museum.

None of the text issues from people’s mouths; it is found either on signs or exhibition labels, or it expresses actions. In several pages of frontmatter, readers see the nuclear family—a white dad, a beige-skinned mom, a perhaps school-age child, and a younger child, both white-presenting—meet a scruffy sidewalk vendor advertising “magic.” He creates flying birds from paper and scissors, and, at the older child’s urging, the father buys one. Throughout the book, the child sends the bird flying inside the museum, each time releasing it with a “ksssshhh.” The masterful cartoons convey a dinosaur skeleton with the same ease as the protagonist’s scowling face when a little boy in a brown-skinned Muslim family (mom and sister wear hijab) catches the bird. Although the protagonist’s father appropriately reprimands his offspring for this rudeness, the premise is unlikely (inside a museum, flying objects are discouraged, by guards if not by caregivers). Worse, when the child is inadvertently separated from mom, dad, and sib, a great moment of panic arises when the child stands alone between a brown-skinned family and a family of Orthodox Jews. A sweet double-page spread of multicultural bonding with the Muslim family in the butterfly garden does not diminish disturbing undercurrents.

A thousand mixed messages at the museum. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17496-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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