Sweet and loving characters can’t quite make up for a lack of plot

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KING ALICE

King Alice lays down the law when her family is snowbound.

After anointing herself King Alice (“You mean…Queen?” Sir Dad asks; “No! KING!”—but this is not a book about overturning gender norms), the pint-sized monarch decides she and her father will make a book together. With a little nudging from Mom, their story begins with “King Alice the First and the royal brave knights having breakfast.” Chapter 2 continues it with a princess tea party. And so the day goes, with a red-bathrobe–clad Alice moving from activity to activity as her beleaguered father tries to keep up (at one point Alice abruptly begins Chapter 5: “ ‘What happened to chapters 3 and 4…?’ Dad wondered pointlessly”) and her mother takes care of the baby and feeds the family. Cordell gets the aimlessness of a day without structure perfectly as well as the elliptical, arbitrary composition style of a young child in Alice’s writing. Unfortunately, the result is a rather aimless plot, one that seems to place Dad’s frazzlement at its center rather than Alice’s ebullience. Cordell’s characteristically scratchy illustrations depict a happy, mixed-race family (Dad presents white, Mom has brown skin and black hair, and the two children have light-brown skin and black hair) in a comfortably messy house. Alice’s metafictive story appears on faux lined paper and cleverly mirrors the events of the day.

Sweet and loving characters can’t quite make up for a lack of plot . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-04749-6

Page Count: 45

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite.

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AFTER THE FALL (HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN)

Humpty Dumpty, classically portrayed as an egg, recounts what happened after he fell off the wall in Santat’s latest.

An avid ornithophile, Humpty had loved being atop a high wall to be close to the birds, but after his fall and reassembly by the king’s men, high places—even his lofted bed—become intolerable. As he puts it, “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Although fear bars Humpty from many of his passions, it is the birds he misses the most, and he painstakingly builds (after several papercut-punctuated attempts) a beautiful paper plane to fly among them. But when the plane lands on the very wall Humpty has so doggedly been avoiding, he faces the choice of continuing to follow his fear or to break free of it, which he does, going from cracked egg to powerful flight in a sequence of stunning spreads. Santat applies his considerable talent for intertwining visual and textual, whimsy and gravity to his consideration of trauma and the oft-overlooked importance of self-determined recovery. While this newest addition to Santat’s successes will inevitably (and deservedly) be lauded, younger readers may not notice the de-emphasis of an equally important part of recovery: that it is not compulsory—it is OK not to be OK.

A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-682-6

Page Count: 45

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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