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This wry object lesson blends clever design and a sincere, never-preachy delivery. Terrific! (Picture book. 3-7)

Into a family’s device-dominated existence, Cordell inserts this tribute to the realms of nature and the imagination.

Lydia, bored with gadgets that fail to activate or stimulate, turns to parents and a brother too immersed in their own digital miasmas to look up. An open door and a fluttering leaf beckon, and Lydia, once outside, encounters a bug, a field of flowers and—leaping from the natural to the fantastic—a horse who greets her by name. In ensuing double-page spreads, the galloping girl is joined by an increasingly exotic horde of animals—from bison to gorilla, T. rex to blue whale. With her cellphone’s “RING RING RING,” it all comes to a screeching halt, as both parents call her home. Now nature’s ambassador, Lydia—always depicted in color against the tonal gray-washes of her home and family—exchanges Mom’s laptop for a leaf, Dad’s PDA for a flower and brother Bob’s tablet for the ladybug that’s clung to her dress throughout her adventure. Inked letters toggle between a digital look (for the device-obsessive scenes) and a brushy, casually penned script for the wider world. In the charming penultimate spread, the family (with that ladybug now clinging to Bob) admires the falling leaves; in the last, all four ride careening (or swimming) animals.

This wry object lesson blends clever design and a sincere, never-preachy delivery. Terrific!  (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5906-3

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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From the Izzy Gizmo series

A disappointing follow-up.

Inventor Izzy Gizmo is back in this sequel to her eponymous debut (2017).

While busily inventing one day, Izzy receives an invitation from the Genius Guild to their annual convention. Though Izzy’s “inventions…don’t always work,” Grandpa (apparently her sole caregiver) encourages her to go. The next day they undertake a long journey “over fields, hills, and waves” and “mile after mile” to isolated Technoff Isle. There, Izzy finds she must compete against four other kids to create the most impressive machine. The colorful, detail-rich illustrations chronicle how poor Izzy is thwarted at every turn by Abi von Lavish, a Veruca Salt–esque character who takes all the supplies for herself. But when Abi abandons her project, Izzy salvages the pieces and decides to take Grandpa’s advice to create a machine that “can really be put to good use.” A frustrated Izzy’s impatience with a friend almost foils her chance at the prize, but all’s well that ends well. There’s much to like: Brown-skinned inventor girl Izzy is an appealing character, it’s great to see a nurturing brown-skinned male caregiver, the idea of an “Invention Convention” is fun, and a sustainable-energy invention is laudable. However, these elements don’t make up for rhymes that often feel forced and a lackluster story.

A disappointing follow-up. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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