Words like “measures” might be challenging for this first reader, but for the most part, Cerato brings the coolness of...

DREW THE SCREW

From the I Like To Read series

An anthropomorphic screw introduces readers to the tools in his shed then suffers a modest existential crisis before he learns his own raison d’être.

Cerato deploys a vibrant palette and plenty of electric complementary colors—although the absence of a distinctive hand other than an electronic one is also in evidence—to add an important degree of oomph to this scant narrative. Drew, the tour guide, is a screw of few words: “The tape measures.” “The hammer hits.” “The saw cuts.” Easy enough for a book aimed at fledgling readers, 59 words in total, with illustrations full of bold action to help put the words into their contexts. Some of the sentences are a bit limp—“The clamp holds things”; as does, for instance, a refrigerator—and it does feel a bit aggressive when friendly little Drew finds himself encircled by his tool mates, who demand, “What can you do?” as if Drew were a third wheel in the toolshed. Then the freckle-faced white boy who has been busy in the background all this time scoops Drew up and puts his insecurities to rest, although Cerato never explains exactly what it is that Drew does, just shows him happily holding a sign in place. He could, after all, just be another clamp.

Words like “measures” might be challenging for this first reader, but for the most part, Cerato brings the coolness of working in the toolshed to life. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3540-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard.

THE HALLOWEEN TREE

A grouchy sapling on a Christmas tree farm finds that there are better things than lights and decorations for its branches.

A Grinch among the other trees on the farm is determined never to become a sappy Christmas tree—and never to leave its spot. Its determination makes it so: It grows gnarled and twisted and needle-less. As time passes, the farm is swallowed by the suburbs. The neighborhood kids dare one another to climb the scary, grumpy-looking tree, and soon, they are using its branches for their imaginative play, the tree serving as a pirate ship, a fort, a spaceship, and a dragon. But in winter, the tree stands alone and feels bereft and lonely for the first time ever, and it can’t look away from the decorated tree inside the house next to its lot. When some parents threaten to cut the “horrible” tree down, the tree thinks, “Not now that my limbs are full of happy children,” showing how far it has come. Happily for the tree, the children won’t give up so easily, and though the tree never wished to become a Christmas tree, it’s perfectly content being a “trick or tree.” Martinez’s digital illustrations play up the humorous dichotomy between the happy, aspiring Christmas trees (and their shoppers) and the grumpy tree, and the diverse humans are satisfyingly expressive.

Just the thing for anyone with a Grinch-y tree of their own in the yard. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7335-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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