Peaceful, sometimes mildly humorous art provides gentle nudging toward a philosophical frame of mind.

BEFORE AFTER

This harmonious album of clean-lined, very simple images in before-and-after pairs or short sequences practically compels viewers to ruminate about changes and seasons.

The book is entirely wordless, with just a few snatches of visual narrative in the form of multispread vignettes. Mirrored sun-moon pairs appear at the beginning and end, and a caterpillar seen chewing up a leaf on one spread flies off as a butterfly on the next, for instance. But this book is about many transformations, not just a few. In dozens of large, softly hued pictures of rolling landscapes or single trees, animals or manufactured objects against monochromatic backgrounds, the creators depict the passage of time. They do this through natural seasonal changes, with significant pairings like a rocking horse with a similarly curvilinear rocking chair or, taking a broader perspective, with opposing views of an urban skyline under construction and then finished. There are also allusive references, such as a pumpkin with a carriage. Human figures are rare—tiny when they do appear. Younger children will enjoy the mild challenge of figuring out the connections between, for instance, a slingshot and a broken window, a homing pigeon and an airmail envelope, a woolly sheep and (several steps and a knitted winter hat later) wood smoke drifting from a chimney in the snow.

Peaceful, sometimes mildly humorous art provides gentle nudging toward a philosophical frame of mind. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7621-6

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Cool and stylish.

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ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST

Her intellectual curiosity is surpassed only by her passion for science. But what to do about her messy experiments?

Ada is speechless until she turns 3. But once she learns how to break out of her crib, there’s no stopping the kinky-haired, brown-skinned girl. “She tore through the house on a fact-finding spree.” When she does start speaking, her favorite words are “why,” “how,” and “when.” Her parents, a fashion-forward black couple who sport a variety of trendy outfits, are dumbfounded, and her older brother can only point at her in astonishment. She amazes her friends with her experiments. Ada examines all the clocks in the house, studies the solar system, and analyzes all the smells she encounters. Fortunately, her parents stop her from putting the cat in the dryer, sending her instead to the Thinking Chair. But while there, she covers the wall with formulae. What can her parents do? Instead of punishing her passion, they decide to try to understand it. “It’s all in the heart of a young scientist.” Though her plot is negligible—Ada’s parents arguably change more than she does—Beaty delightfully advocates for girls in science in her now-trademark crisply rhyming text. Roberts’ illustrations, in watercolor, pen, and ink, manage to be both smart and silly; the page compositions artfully evoke the tumult of Ada’s curiosity, filling white backgrounds with questions and clutter.

Cool and stylish. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2137-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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