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COMING HOME

A highly unusual picture book to satisfy the heart of anyone who enjoys making the natural world part of a Christmas...

A robin travels alone for many miles to reach his mate by Christmas.

In beautifully poetic language, Morpurgo portrays the urgency of the bird’s longing to return home. The robin encounters dangers along his migration path, from rain, snow, and stormy seas to a narrow escape from a hawk. Recounting the robin’s journey in first-person verse casts the bird’s voice in a counterpoint to lovely illustrations of a landscape often shown literally from a bird’s-eye view. Repetition of words and motifs echo the rhythm of his wings and heartbeat in a sometimes-plaintive voice: “Dream of home, think only of her, / Waiting for me, looking for me, longing for me. / Beat, my wings, beat faster. / Easy, my heart, go steady. / Steady.” The robin joins a flock of thrushes “over sun-dancing sea” before, suddenly lost in a dense fog, the robin spies a fishing boat to rest on. Choppy waves and the little bird’s disorientation are expertly captured in images that break from the pattern, the action slowing down as he reaches the boat, then looks up to see a person looming over him. Finally warm, fed, and rested, he’s released by friendly hands over a calm sea to finish his journey. Migration information at the beginning explains that the Scandinavian robin migrates south to Britain around Christmastime.

A highly unusual picture book to satisfy the heart of anyone who enjoys making the natural world part of a Christmas celebration. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0042-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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