A picture book that wants to be a graphic novel, and a message worthy of both.

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SMALL THINGS

A young child deals with isolation and the escalation of worry in Tregonning’s posthumous wordless picture book.

Anxiety is more than a feeling in this visual narrative, more than the pressure of school tests, the loneliness of exclusion by classmates, or the fear of such shortcomings being discovered at home. Anxiety, represented here by ominously sharp swirls of black ink, has a visceral, visual gravitas—it grows to fill literal and figurative space as the young protagonist’s outlook progresses steadily downhill. Shouldering worry and shame while trying to hide both unsurprisingly takes its toll, and employing a touch of body horror, the barbs of worry that plague the protagonist begin actually to tear away at arms, legs, back, and head until the cracks can no longer be hidden. The poignant effects of an entirely black-and-white palette and masterful shifts in perspective are muddled by a dizzying layout of (sometimes-excessive) individual panels. Younger readers who gravitate toward wordless picture books or those with low contrast sensitivity may find it difficult to keep pace. Nonetheless, the refreshing visibility and validity of childhood pressures accompanied by the equally important realization that no one is alone in their experience of such strain balances the slight risk that readers might lose track of the narrative. The tousle-headed protagonist is depicted with pale skin and attends a fairly diverse school.

A picture book that wants to be a graphic novel, and a message worthy of both. (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77278-042-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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