A diverse family conveys a noteworthy message about food waste and the value of home gardening.

THE IMPERFECT GARDEN

A mother and child harvest fruits and veggies—some of them in funny shapes—from their backyard garden.

Jay narrates this spring-to-fall overview as the two sow, water, and pick their crops. Their cucumbers grow “in all kinds of twirly-whirly shapes!” When Jay wonders why supermarket cukes are so comparatively straight, Mom explains that nonconforming produce is discarded. Mom and Jay dig carrots, including a “two-legged” one. Jay takes bites of two-legged and ordinary carrots, pronouncing both “crunchy and delicious.” The pair harvests apples—some smooth, some bumpy. Including bumpy fruit yields an extra pie for their neighbor. Returning to the supermarket in October, Jay surveys the uniform produce displays, asking the grocer, “Don’t you have any twirly-whirly, lumpy, bumpy fruits and vegetables?” They’re led to an array of reduced-price, less-than-perfect produce—three-legged carrots and more. Assaly’s narrative drives home the point: Fresh produce needn’t be cosmetically perfect to be nourishing and tasty. Her concluding note attests that vast amounts of usable produce are trashed while many people live food-insecure. Filipinx Canadian illustrator dela Noche Milne depicts Jay and Mom with light brown skin and dark hair. Interiors and townscapes brim with charming detail.

A diverse family conveys a noteworthy message about food waste and the value of home gardening. (author’s note, gardening tips) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55455-408-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging.

ISLANDBORN

A young girl’s homework assignment unravels the history and beauty of her homeland.

Lola and her classmates are assigned to draw pictures of their respective origin countries. With excitement, the others begin sharing what they will draw: pyramids, a long canal, a mongoose. Lola, concerned, doesn’t remember what life was like on the Island, and so she recruits her whole neighborhood. There is Leticia, her cousin; Mrs. Bernard, who sells the crispy empanadas; Leticia’s brother Jhonathan, a barber; her mother; her abuela; and their gruff building superintendent. With every description, Lola learns something new: about the Island’s large bats, mangoes, colorful people, music and dancing everywhere, the beaches and sea life, and devastating hurricanes. Espinosa’s fine, vibrant illustrations dress the story in colorful cacophony and play with texture (hair especially) as Lola conjures images of her homeland. While the story does not identify the Island by name, readers familiar with Díaz’s repertoire will instantly identify it as the Dominican Republic, a conclusion that’s supported when the super recalls the Monster (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo), and sharp-eyed readers should look at the magnets on Lola’s refrigerator. Lola, Teresa Mlawer’s translation, is just as poignant as the original.

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2986-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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