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THE BALCONY

A charmingly verdant tale in classic style.

A child gardener makes a new place feel like home.

The young protagonist, whose skin is the pale cream of the book’s paper, enjoys the lush garden of their country home, serenely having tea with animal friends. Then a job change for their parents means goodbye. Saddened, they move to an apartment in the city, from which they gaze longingly at the distant country from their third-story balcony. They plant seeds in a pot, and, seemingly overnight, an asparagus-looking bloom sprouts. It grows steadily, eventually becoming even taller than the child’s parents. With more plants, the balcony soon becomes an overflowing oasis of flora, attracting friendly animals, until the whole neighborhood is teeming with vegetation. The plants form connections among the community, including the protagonist’s friendship with a next-door–neighbor child who has dark skin and wears their hair in braided knots. The occasional text provides some plot developments (a posted letter inviting the mother to take a job in the city) and conveys strong moods (“Hope” appears next to the child as they pot their initial plant). Digitally colored pencil illustrations are classically styled, with hatchings, strong lines, playful spatial distortions reminiscent of Wanda Gág, and a vintage-feeling tricolor palette. The organic elements have especially enchanting forms. Elegant drawings and sparse, emotive text make this story accessible to readers of a wide age range.

A charmingly verdant tale in classic style. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0588-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

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

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 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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