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RABBIT MAGIC

A study in leporine whimsy with lingering poignance.

A magic show turns upside down in McLaren's delightful backstage romp.

No magician's act is complete without a wand, top hat, and, of course, a white rabbit. This is certainly true for Monsieur Lapin's act, where white rabbit Houdini steals the show…literally. A natural choice for a magician's assistant, Houdini helps bring the other rabbits together and makes sure all is ready before the show: "Houdini took care of everyone and everything." Things change abruptly, however, when Houdini steps in after an onstage mishap and, with a potent flick of the wand, accidentally turns the white magician into a gray-and-white rabbit surrounded by a collapsed tuxedo. But the show must go on, and while at first Houdini flourishes in the limelight, with his wonderful and daring tricks, the excitement dwindles as Houdini sees how much the former magician misses the stage (and being human). With the help of the other rabbits, Houdini restores the magician to his human form, and they both come to realize that the spotlight is at its most magical when it is shared. McLaren hits all the right notes with this spare but exhilarating text, bringing it to rich visual life with dynamic and comically energetic illustrations. No page turn goes unrewarded, and readers of any age will rush to see the rabbits’ ironic background antics.

A study in leporine whimsy with lingering poignance. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78469-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

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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HEY, DUCK!

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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